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■• •! • V i 



Talking Heads 2 

Letters 4 

Confidential Correspondences 18 

Buy 'Em and Sell 'Em at Solem 25 


Greys 39 

Inside the Childcare Factory 44 

Poetry 48 

Roots of Disi 1 1 usionment 51 

All of the articles and stories in Processed World reflect the views and 
fantasies of the author and not necessarily those of other contributors or 

Credits: Chris Winks, Helen Highwater, Rickie "K", Lucius Cabins, 
Richard Laubach, Penny O'Reilly, Maxine Holz, Louis Michaelson, Ernie 
Parell, Raphaelle, Pauline Slug, Linda Thomas, Marcy Darnovsky, Friends 
of the Toad, Clayton Sheridan, Dinsdale, Willie The Rat, Sally A. Frye, 
Freddie Baer, Anna Kellia Ramares, Elsa Eder, Leslie Regan Shade, J. 












TQlhIng Heads 

As issue #6 0/ Processed World 
goes to press, nearly half of ttie 
active participants in PW are 
unemployed or living on marginal 
and sporadic income. Some of us 
{who don 't have children to support) 
are used to living quite cheaply and 
appreciate not working and finally 
having enough time for our own 
projects. However, everyone is 
more concerned about that per- 
petually unpleasant question of 
economic survival. So where does 
all this leave PW and others with 
our "bad work attitude?" 

At a recent discussion of the 
future of PW, several participants 
expressed hopes of broadening the 
range and focus of our activities. Up 
till now, aside from the publication 
of the magazine, we have attempted 
to create a space and context for 
informal exchanges of ideas, infor- 
mation and experiences at ^ bi- 
weekly gatherings and a couple of 
picnics. Distributing the magazine 
to passers-by in the Financial 
District, and "scandalizing" indus- 
try-sponsored events with costume 
picket lines and leaflets {see 

"Duelling For Dollars" on p. 38) 
are other ways we have attempted 
to overcome our isolation. While we 
all agree that PW should continue 
its public experiments in creating a 
community based on opposition to 
the values, images and language of 
those in power {see e.g., Chris 
Winks' article on office-ese), there 
is a wide range of opinion on other 
directions PW might eventually 

The question of the relationship 
of PW as a group /collective/ project 
to the growing number of rebels we 
have met sparked a long debate. 
Some people think we could actively 
seek ways to develop and coordinate 
our resources and contacts with an 
eye towards intervening in support 
of off ice workers {or others) who are 
taking a stand against manage- 
ment. This could include soliciting 
and providing information and 
advice {e.g., some PWers con- 
sidered producing a pamphlet on 
how to deal with unemployment 
bureaucracy), or more direct par- 
ticipation in conflicts {e.g. block- 

Pfi\QCE55ED (TQi^LD 

ades, disruptions, and sympathy 
strikes). Furthest along these lines 
was the suggestion that, if condi- 
tions were favorable for instigating 
organized job actions at a particular 
workplace, a group of trouble- 
makers could try to get jobs there. 
Others feel that, in the absence of 
more generalized opposition, it is 
premature to foresee or prepare for 
collective confrontations. Still 
others disagree entirely with this 
strategic approach. They believe 
PW should not play a direct role in 
organizing office workers. They fear 
that if people come to PW looking 
for answers or directions, this might 
encourage their dependence and 
impede self-organization. 

Many office workers in SF are 
temporaries {officially or not), un- 
employed, or isolated in small 
offices, so that their connection to 
co-workers is limited. Moreover, 
while work is a setting where we 
experience capitalism 's control over 
our daily lives tangibly and directly, 
it is by no means the only context 
for opposition to the ways things 
are. In this issue. Penny O'Reilly 
analyzes the current state of 
childcare and suggests seeking 
solutions that would maximize 
autonomy from state or corporate 

Some PWers spoke of emphasi- 
zing symbolic protests in the streets 
of the Financial District to strength- 
en solidarity and temporarily dis- 
alienate the environment. W.R.'s 
letter suggests some possible ac- 
tions of this sort. 

Questions were raised about 
further attempts to define our 
project and goals in relation to past 
oppositional movements, including 
the political experiences of in- 
dividuals in the group. In this issue. 
Roots of Disillusionment takes a 
broad look at ways in which 
socio-economic conditions and cul- 
tural practices shaped the exper- 
ience of the post WWII baby boom 

generation. The article examines 
the growth of "information hand- 
ling" work against the background 
of the social movements of the past 
decades, and calls for a reassertion, 
broader, deeper and more lucid, of 
the most advanced moments of the 
"sixties" revolt. 

Hatred for conformism and pho- 
niness, along with a renewed 
respect for dream and fantasy, were 
primary values for the rebels of 
fifteen years ago. Ana Kellia 
Ramares' story, "Greys," ex- 
presses these values powerfully in 
an OfficeLand context. In this 
issue's Tales of Toil, "Buy 'Em... ", 
the private relations of a notorious 
San Francisco PR firm, So I em & 
Associates, are held up to deserved 
ridicule. And "Them, " which could 
be called a "Tale of Toilsome 
Leisure," penetrates beyond the 
hoopla surrounding the recent US 
Festival to reveal it as just another 
pseudo-event with computerized 

Enjoy! And keep those letters 
coming. . . 


Dear PW, 

Thank you for the copy of Pro- 
cessed World that arrived while I 
was on vacation. Since then there 
have been about three crises at a 
tinne, including the landlord sud- 
denly selling our apartment from 
under us and the like. 

There is a story I've started 
[which] is based on my time as a 
Personnel Management Analyst 
Trainee for the State of Tennessee. 
The courts had ordered the state to 
make job definitions for each of the 
3,200 classifications then in use. To 
stand up in Civil Service proceed- 
ings the definitions had to be 
broken down into hundreds of min- 
ute actions. The interviews to get 
the information had to be taken 
from employees scattered around 
the state, and then the information 
had to go through all sorts of 
computer analyses. Each job defini- 
tion was to be about 300 pages. 
When I arrived at the office, the 
eight PMAs had been working on 
this about two years and hadn't 
completed one of the 3,200. Even if 
they completed one it would legally 
expire in three years since it might 
not reflect current job require- 
ments. The then-governor of Ten- 
nessee was against the whole thing 
and just funded it to satisfy the 
court. A new election was coming 
up in a few months that migtit 
change the whole policy and method 
of definition. Etc. My job was 
terrific and just what your magazine 
is about. I had to work toward 
writing job definitions that would 
never be finished, and if finished 

LET Mf W., 

never used. Despite this the boss, a 
one-legged man on crutches known 
to the staff as Tripod, prowled the 
halls to make sure we were working. 
Good story material, Beckett-world. 

D.F. — Lincoln, NE 

Dear PW, 

I've been an office worker for a 
long time now — since I left home at 
fifteen and lied about my age to 
start as a secy in a temp agency. 
Along the way have picked up skills 
— been an admin, asst., word 
processor, and all-around-peon — 
as well as gained some real insights 
into the mechanics of Big Business 
and our capitalist society. Over the 
years I've accumulated my share of 
"Tales of Toil" and have become 
increasingly fed up with the whole 
system. What an integral part of 
this society are we lowly office 
workers! What a void has been 
filled by PW\ I'm so proud and 
happy that you all have labored and 
loved to create this much needed 
forum for us. At last — a place 
where we can communicate, ex- 
change ideas, and discover that we 
are not alone. The letter from L.S. 
in PW4 and Maxine's response 
really touched me deeply. It is the 
people like L.S. and Maxine in my 
life who have kept me going when 
the going got rough, and who have 
inspired me to 'take the chance and 
quit working to become a full time 

Right now I've got a year to go 
towards my B.A., and then I hope to 
study law (no — I do not plan to be a 


corporate lawyer!). In the meantime 
I'm working part-time as a secy on 
campus to survive. Check it out — 
students aren't allowed to make 
more than minimum wage here. 
Thus, I am the most experienced 
worker in the office but have the 
lowest salary — with no fringe. 
Also, since "boss" discovered that I 
write better than he does (which 
isn't hard) I now write most of his 
correspondence and edit his re- 
ports. C'est la vie. At least I get an 
inside look at the workings of this 

Although I don't call myself a 
socialist (haven't really read enuf 
about it) I know and believe in the 
slogan "workers of the world 
unite!" As office workers we fuel 
the very brain of the industrial 
monster. I truly believe that we 
have the potential for enormous 
power — we could bring Wall Street 
to its knees, we could halt Pentagon 
operations — if we wanted to and if 
we were united and organized. The 
articles in PW on office workers' 
strikes and the science fiction 
"could happen" stories all reveal 
this truth. How far we want to 

realize our potential is wide open for 
discussion — and PW gives us a 
place where we can explore these 
ideas. The comic relief helps too! 
Keep strong, stay healthy, 

L.G. — NewPaltz, NY 

Dear Processed World, 

I read with interest the Talking 
Heads column in issue #5. I think 
the questions being raised about 
future directions for Processed 
World are important. As I read the 
article a variety of thoughts oc- 
curred to me and I would like to 
share some of them. 

Too many groups in the past have 
been unable to move past the point 
PW is at now. Instead they've 
ended up liberal or doctrinaire or 
just burned-out. All the activism of 
the 60s and 70s has ended in apathy 
and disappointment with political 
movements that have assimilated to 
the mainstream. 

This apathy, even though an 
obstacle to the goals of PW, is a 
valid feeling and we should accept 
it. Within the apathy is a potential 
for a genuinely radical position. 



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Is your secretary trying to 
tell you sorQghing? 

That is, people are apathetic be- 
cause they realize how much is 
wrong with society. Old political 
formulas aren't good enough any- 
more. The potential is for this 
feeling to become a willingness to 
consider new alternatives, to ques- 
tion one's stake in the system. 

PW has done a good job of 
tapping into this feeling among 
office workers. But can this alien- 
ation be translated into a desire to 
resist social control and to work for 
something better? The issue of how 
to relate to the labor movement and 
unionism is a good example. Can 
unions address the alienation office 
workers feel today? 

I don't think so. Unions always 
assume that we accept our roles as 

workers. But we don't! And that's 
what PW has been pointing out. 
Even if the wages were better, we 'd 
still hate office work. 

But unions, by definition, limit 
their scope to the workplace and 
issues of workers. For those of us 
who'd like to see work itself rede- 
fined, to unionize is almost a con- 
tradiction in terms. 

Is there an alternative? A way to 
move beyond the worker role, to 
address the socio-economic control 
that jobs exercise over our ofa/7y 

I emphasize the idea of daily life 
because I think we've been asked 
too often to give energy to move- 
ments on the basis of abstract or 
theoretical goals. We're always 


talking about the "workplace" or 
the "voting booths" or even the 
"streets." But these are abstract 
nnetaphors for political processes 
and not concrete situations In our 
daily lives. We nnay demonstrate for 
the human rights of people in a 
country we've never been to. But 
we often don't even know the 
people who live in the apartment 
next door. This contradiction ulti- 
mately tends to negate our political 

My point is that these abstract 
political arenas can never help us 
achieve our goals. Processes based 
on the use of power (that is, 
coercion), from the marketplace to 
the halls of Congress, are what 
creates alienation. We can't use 
them to end alienation! 

That's not the only reason to 
question our relationship to these 
arenas. We've seen how past 
movements that have used these 
political processes have ended up 
thinking and acting like the very 
institutions they wanted to change. 
There are many examples of this 
phenomena — from women man- 
agers to Black Republicans to 
unions that cooperate with manage- 
ment to increase productivity and 
lower wages (like the auto unions). 

We need to think about political 
change in a whole new way. We 
can't accept issues in the terms that 
corporations define them. They 
want to talk about productivity and 
wages. But we're concerned about 
the value of work and the quality of 
life. They want us to define our 
needs in terms of salaries and 
benefits. We want to meet human 
needs without money. 

Our concerns today are not as 
workers or producers (which has 
always been the basic premise of 
the labor movement). We want 
freedom from work that is useless 
and alienating. But what forces us 
to remain workers Is our role as 
consumers. Despite all the abun- 

dance and over-production of our 
economic system, we're still forced 
to pay money for basic survival 
needs, as If these things were 
scarce. And as long as we need 
money to survive, we're forced to 
sell our labor. 

Organizing us in our capacity as 
producers only further entrenches 
us in the world of wage labor. It is 
as consumers that we exercise what 
choice we do have as participants In 
the economy. The choice we can 
exercise now: not to participate at 
all. So by organizing ourselves as 
consumers, we can free ourselves 
from the economic system, es- 
pecially our dependence on jobs for 
survival. And I believe that any- 
thing that lessens that dependence 
moves us towards the freedom from 
work that we are seeking. 

The underground economy is the 
arena where this struggle for free- 
dom is being conducted. This coun- 
ter-economy Is as important to the 
80s as the counter-culture was to 
the 60s. It's an arena that does have 
a concrete basis in our dally lives. 
It's where our political ideals can be 
integrated with our own day-to-day 
actions and behavior. 

The possibilities suggested by 
this approach are numerous. Any 
project that promotes economic and 
psychological freedom from the 
workplace can be considered. The 
following are ideas that occurred to 

Information: Office workers have a 
real need for an information re- 
source or network that isn't sold out 
to corporate interests. We need to 
exchange information to help us 
survive in the office world, such as: 
comparisons of salaries, benefits, 
corporate policies and similar in- 
formation about various companies, 
the reputations of corporations for 
discrimination, employee relations, 
etc., experiences with various tem- 
porary employment agencies, our 


legal rights on the job, health 
hazards in office environments, and 
strategies for dealing with employ- 
ers, unemployment insurance, job- 
hunting, etc., etc. 

Resources: Instead of waiting for 
the corporation to provide us with 
benefits to meet our needs is it 
possible to provide for some of them 
ourselves, cooperatively? Some 
workers, especially temporaries, 
have a real need for health in- 
surance. A lot of people take a 
permanent job simply becaue they 
need the health benefits offered. 
Another area might be child care... 

Co-ops and Exchange Networks: 
Having to pay for goods not only 
forces us to work — routine shop- 
ping takes up a terrific amount of 
what little free time we have. A 
network for trading and bartering 
goods and services could help. So 
could cooperative food-buying, es- 
pecially if the distribution outlet 
was near our jobs or home... 

Support and Community: Contact 
with other office workers in similar 
situations helps us find support. It's 
also a key way that people develop 
an awareness about their situations. 
Informal gatherings, like PW has 
already been doing, are good as 
well as formal events. I like the idea 
of an annual "Secretaries Ball" — 
sort of a counter-part to the annual 
Hooker's Ball in San Francisco. 

By these suggestions I don't 
mean projects organized like human 
services. I mean projects organized 
by people to benefit themselves. 
Some may not consider this to be 
valid political work. But today, the 
corporations are determined to. co- 
opt all our needs into the cash 
economy. If we don't address these 
needs ourselves, they will soon have 
a price tag on them and we will be 
all the more dependent on the 
economy. Dropping out of the cash 

economy, its laws and its values, is 
a genuine act of resistance. 

This is where official, formal, 
legal organizations — the kind most 
groups seem to think they have to 
be — are actually a disadvantage. 
By working informally, without a 
platform or manifesto or even a 
name, it's possible to promote the 
underground economy and advocate 
resistance with less risk of becom- 
ing a legal target. 

Then, unlike unions, we can 
really challenge the whole system of 
corporate values and the absurdity 
of our jobs. For example, we could 
hold a press conference on the steps 
of the Pacific Stock Exchange to 
announce awards to companies 
based on categories like "Lowest 
Salaries," "Most Paternalistic," 
"Most Incompetent Management," 
"Most Sexist," etc. Or we could 
start a Corporate Crime Secret 
Witness Program and offer rewards 
to employees who anonymously leak 
information about their corpora- 
tion's crimes and boondoggles. 

Once we get over old ideas about 
revolution being led by united, 
mass fronts, we can open ourselves 
to creative thinking about our poli- 
tical work. We can learn to be 
comfortable with a variety of opin- 
ions and a diversity of actions — not 
everyone has to agree with us or do 
what we do to be a friend. 

As for developing our own pro- 
cesses for decision-making, there 
are a couple of ideas worth con- 
sidering. One is the process of 
consensus, where the group acts on 
something as long as no member 
has a strong objection. If there is an 
objection it is discussed and if the 
objection still remains then the 
particular action is not taken. Con- 
sensus requires more time initially, 
but it ensures the participation of all 
group members and requires the 
majority to consider the opinions of 
independent or minority voices 
within the group. A corollary to this 



is the use of direct representation. 
Representatives appointed by the 
group serve only to convey positions 
the group has agreed to in con- 
sensus. They can't change that 
position (lll<e politicians do) unless 
they return to the group for a new 

Having said all this, there is still 
the question of what to do about the 
jobs we still have to have. Work- 
place organizing can be worthwhile 
depending on its goals. To make us 
increase our keystroke rates in 
return for a higher tax bracket? Or 
to win us freedom, piece by piece, 
from the alienation of the work- 
place? It can do this, for example, if 
the union seeks fewer hours for 

But for a goal like this to be 
practical, we still have to address 
our dependence on the cash econ- 
omy. That's why I put the idea of 
cooperative projects first. If we can 
meet our material needs in other 
ways, we can seek a goal like a 
shorter work week. 

The purpose of my ideas here has 
been to help PW find ways to 
address this challenge: not only to 
find the direction to move in, but to 
overcome the apathy at the same 
time, to find alternatives to past 
mistakes of political movements and 
to show office workers that change 
is possible, starting with the con- 
crete reality of our daily lives. 


W.R.— -Los Angeles 
P.S. I just saw the news that Blue 

Shield is pulling its office out of San 
Francisco in a clear attempt to bpeak 
the union there, one of the first 
unions of office workers in S.F. 
[Write PW for copies of past cover- 
age of the fights at Blue Shield]. 
This only underscores the futility of 
the union approach. Corporations 
today are national and international 
in scope — they can move any- 
where, while we, as individuals, 
always remain local. It is the local 
level, and our daily lives, that offer 
us the best opportunities for organ- 
izing today. 

Dear Will, 

Thanks for your thoughtful letter. 
So far PW has focused on workplace 
issues and though this will probably 
remain true for some time, we 
welcome discussion and articles on 
other aspects of our daily lives. In 
any case, I don't believe that the 
sphere of consumption can be di- 
vorced from the sphere of produc- 
tion as you seem to propose. Or- 
ganizing as "consumers" no more 
guarantees freedom from the coer- 
cion of the marketplace than does 
organizing as "workers". Both 
these roles need to be redefined, or 
better still, abolished as such. 

Finding new ways to circumvent 
the money economy is a crucial step 
in doing away with it altogether. But 
the purpose of co-ops and collectives 
is defeated if they don't actually 
spare people from alienated labor, 
and few such experiments have 
succeeded. As long as the market 


rules, "dropping out" of the cash 
economy tends to take the form of 
self-imposed poverty. Witness the 
burn-out rate of communes and 
collectives in the sixties and seven- 
ties. [The counter-economy was, in 
fact, an important part of the 
counter-culture, see "Roots of 
Disillusionment" in this issue]. 

The workplace and the streets are 
not just "abstract political meta- 
phors for political processes, " they 
are very concrete arenas of social 
activity. Wresting control of neigh- 
borhood space from landlords, banks 
and police officers certainly concerns 
our daily lives, as does taking control 
of work places, whether to destroy 
them or transform them. 

Nevertheless, some of your 
suggestions for ways we can im- 
mediately help each other are well- 
taken. Some people working on PW 
are interested in contributing to 
such an information exchange. If 
anyone wants to send in comments, 
reports, recommendations, etc , on 
companies, bosses, etc., we can 
begin putting it together for publi- 
cation. If other people would like to 
co-ordinate childcare co-ops or take 
up other ideas for projects, we can 
help put people in touch with each 
other, if so desired. 

— Maxine Holz 

cojiseKoe £MRGy 


Dear comrades-in-arms, 

A friend who is highly sl<illed in 
office sabotage gave me issues #4 
and 5, and Christ on a bicycle, I 
don't think I've been this grateiful 
since I was first taught to read! 
Having just lived through a year- 
long horror story that I'll send to 
you someday, I was particularly 
enchanted by "Sabotage: The Ulti- 
mate Video Game" (although Gid- 
get neglected to mention the finan- 
cial power incarnate in the shit-job 
of mail clerk — how sweet it is to 
whisk away to the washroom and 
flush checks!). 

Me, I'm a secretary with some 
word processing. Till the beginning 
of this month I worked in a "perma- 
nent" job with a computer consul- 
ting company — then after many 
attempts to force me to resign, my 
old management gave up and fired 
me for BAD ATTITUDE. Yippee! 
Now I'm doing temp for a univer- 
sity. The only bad thing is, now that 
I know the most effective ways to 
fight back, I'm working for a good 
employer, dammit. 

In real life, though, I'm a writer. 

Just wait until I'm well paid and 
I'll send you lots of bucks. This is 
better than the Cancer Fund. (Also, 
considering VDT risks, potentially 
more effective. Let us attack all 
problems at their source.) 

May your cog be ever toothless, 
J. M.— Ottawa 

Dear Processed World, 

I've hesitated subscribing until 
now because I thought you would 
probably be another one of those 
little radical magazines that folded 
after two issues. But enclosed 
please find my check for $10 to 
cover one year's subscription. This 
is as much a vote of confidence and 
encouragement as anything else. 

Your magazine is becoming more 
and more relevant to my life. I 
started at my present job at a large 
bank as a part-time student assis- 



tant while I studied Art History at 
SFSU. When I graduated, I was 
offered the position of "Data Base 
IVIanager." This job entailed lots of 
responsibility coupled with lots of 
shit work. I have an annbitious boss 
who is getting ahead with the help 
of a lot of my (unacknowledged) 
creativity. I don't mind too much 
because she leaves me alone and I 
have the chance to learn a lot about 
all the new office equipment that 
the bank puts at my disposal. I will 
soon have the distinction of having 
two VDT'sat my desk (...)The point 
is that I have found myself relating 
to, and in some ways fascinated by, 
a technology that two years ago I 
dismissed in favor of gothic cathe- 

I would like to make personal and 
political connections with people 
who share my concerns and exper- 
iences (...) It would be nice to 
connect with some people who have 
also thought and worked around 
[this situation]. 

In solidarity, 

M.L.— SF 

Dear Processed World, 

Just what do these guys do 

I mean these fat ones, wandering 
around the office with their vests 
unbuttoned and sleeves rolled up, 
making sick jokes with the secre- 
taries (like, "Did you hear the one 
about the stenographer who goes 
into her boss' office and says, 
'Boss, I've found a new position,' 
and the Boss says, 'Great, let's try 
it!' "). And they stand around all 
day talking about their children, 
their cars, their patio cement that's 
cracking, or the card games they 
play sitting in their Winnebagos. 

Once or twice a day they disap- 
pear into their cubicles. Three hours 
later they waddle out belly first with 
a notepad clenched in their fists. 
The results of their hours of mana- 
gerial productivity: a three para- 

graph memo ready for typing. 

Deciphering is what we really do. 
We take their child-like scrawls and 
correct the spelling, make verbs 
agree with subjects, create para- 
graphs, interpret various arrows 
and inserts, and make something 
out of It you could actually read (if 
you wanted to). 

We return the masterpiece for 
approval and they spend another 
happy hour "reviewing." The door 
opens again and out they come, the 
memo finally ready for "distribu- 

That means a score of xeroxes 
distributed to files, binders, CC's, 
and personal scrapbooks, stuffed in 
envelopes, drawers, and In-boxes 
on three floors. 

Just about when we're finished 
they suddenly appear again, an 
apparition hovering around our 
desk, clearing its throat... could 
they make one small change on the 
memo? And off we go again, re- 
typing, re-xeroxing, re-filing. 

One of two of these executive 
documents a day seems to be the 
limit of most managers. But our job 
helping them maintain this extra- 
ordinary level of productivity can 



leave us exhausted at the end of the 

Obviously they don't want to 
admit how important our role is in 
making their attempts at commun- 
ication legible. What I want to know 
is... what do they do? I mean, what 
are managers supposed to know 
that we don't? 

It doesn't include spelling or 
basic writing skills. Remember 
those spelling tests they give you at 
employment agencies and Person- 
nel Offices? Good thing they don't 
give tests like that to managers! 

I, for one, think it's time to stop 
covering for the Boss, using skills 
we aren't paid for. Correcting 
grammar and spelling is editing and 
that's the Job of a "communications 
specialist." Laying out letters and 
creating formats for reports is the 
job of "graphic artists" and "forms 
control officers." And those jobs all 
pay a lot more than ours do, 

I ' m suggesting that we simply stop 
making all these corrections for 
them. I did at my job and I was 
surprised to discover that my man- 
ager didn't even notice! Now I 
regularly send memos out system- 
wide with sentences like "Thank 
you for your patients," and "Newer 
contruction are listed for rent," and 
"Local environs are well appear- 

If moreof us do this we can clog the 
corporate communications system 
with their own gobbledy-gook. 
Then, sooner or later, someone 
"higher up," like the president, 
will notice that all the memos he 
receives are written in sixth-grade 
English. He'll throw an executive 
fit, call an executive meeting, issue 
an executive bulletin... and look for 
a consultant. 

And that's where we can be the 
recipients of corporate misappro- 
priation and extravagance for a 
change. We can market the skills 
we've stopped using on the job in 
the lucrative world of consulting. 

Processed World could form a sub- 
sidiary corporation to give us part- 
time employment consulting cor- 
porations who don't understand 
why their communications are 
proto-illiterate. It's just taking ad- 
vantage of an old principle, "create 
a need and fill it." (Of course, our 
corporation will have to pay us so 
much in salaries that it never makes 
a profit and we can all use the loss 
as a tax shelter...) 

No more free rides! Let the Boss 
dot his own i's... if he can. A 1000 
office workers who know the secret 
of a 1000 incompetent managers can 
be a powerful force. Corporate 
communications are already mean- 
ingless. Let's make them illiterate, 
too, and help cut the final ties of the 
corporate world to reality! Let them 
drown in their own words! 


K.L. — Los Angeles 

Dear Comrades, 

My companion and I have just 
moved from Philadelphia to Endi- 
cott N.Y. If you don't know of 
Endicott you should — not only is it 
the "home" of Endicott Johnson 
Shoes (bad enough!) but also the 
home of IBM! Imagine our disgust 
moving from Philadelphia — home 
of murderous pigs, foul water and 
hot pavement ("home" is the 
wrong word — my description is too 
broad — it could fit anytown USA — 
no, make that the world!). 

Endicott is for all practical pur- 
poses a company town with IBM 
being "the company." 

Since unions are not tolerated — 
we've heard the rumored existence 
of IBM Workers United but can find 
no signs outside. You can't imagine 
how annoying it is to try and cash 
our food stamps at lunchtlme when 
they come out to fill the streets. Or 
how last year we found out the 
company "spilled" some toxic 
wastes by "accident" and the whole 
mess was covered up by village 



authorities so as not to get IBM 
upset. Since we've only been here 
several months we're still orienting 
ourselves about local customs and 
politics. When the Japanese com- 
puter theft story broke we thought 
about spray painting "I'm Turning 
Japanese" on one of the ugly 
buildings that so ruin a rather 
pleasant landscape, but thought it 
too ambiguous and perhaps racist in 

its meaning. 

We are slowly at work on the local 
history of agriculture in this county 
(from self-reliance to corporate con- 
trol) and have met some local 
farmers who still hold out and feel 
very good about sharing informa- 
tion and skills with "anarchists" — 
we'll see what happens, maybe 
Processed Dirt — "the magazine of 
the modern farm worker." 



So let this be a lesson to all who 
contemplate the "simpler life" — 
while it's true we'd rather be here 
than Philadelphia (who wouldn't) — 
the "problems" (and their solu- 
tions!) become just as great — there 
is no "escape." 

For a World without Toil, 

R.S. — Endicott, NY 

PW5 is a winner. Thanks for 
sending it to me. As always it 
reinforced my sense of community. 
Although I work in spiritual isola- 
tion I have no physical privacy. My 
telephone calls must be made in full 
hearing, papers on my desk are 
public property, and the nearness of 
others as bored or drugged as lis a 
further irritant. No community 
here, friends. 

Like Gidget I am involved with 
the questions of subversion, self- 
definition, and powerlessness. Of 
course, computers don't work, peo- 
ple do. Of course, too, computers 
increase productivity, but the po- 
tential for abuse of the technology is 
great. Counting keystrokes is an 
Inadequate measure of productivity, 
although an electronic overseer is a 
nice touch on the word-processing 
plantations. In fact, the technology 

defines the extent of the subver- 
sion. It's less risky, more fun, and 
definitely more profitable to pro- 
gram or key in misinformation than 
to hold up a bank at gunpoint. 
Creative programmers. Captain 
Crunch, et al., are acting in the 
tradition of Jesse James, not Joe 
Hill. The outlaw has always been 
the American Hero. The current 
infatuation with "man-against- 
machine" in the media is no dif- 
ferent from the idealization of the 
gangster in the movies of the 1930s. 
Had Gidget's article appeared in 
the pages of the Wall Street Journal 
or New York Times (the private 
Western Union of the elite), it could 
have been used to reinforce para- 
noia and interest in anti-intrusion 
systems and computer security. 
They don't advertise electronic 
briefcases with "voice stress analy- 
sis to detect lying" for nothing. 

It is my duty to subvert authority. 
The problem is that, like Gidget and 
so many others, I have convinced 
myself of the absurdity of manage- 
ment. I've forgotten they can't take 
jokes. It's sort of like forgetting that 
dope is illegal. I've had to forgive 
myself for these occasional lapses, 
even if they've meant getting fired. 



trusting a co-worker, being terri- 
fied, or feeling alone. The only way 
not to feel alone is to trust a 
co-worker (and if trust leads to 
conspiracy, so what?). Office 
friendships are subversive, too, and 
IBM, among others, has corporate 
fiats forbidding them. It's not only 
"dissension ' ' that management tries 
to control through its personnel 
department agents. 

Incidentally, the ultimate video 
game isn't sabotage — it's pulling 
the plug. The nuclear holocaust is 
the end of the game, all the games. 

B.C.— SF 

Dear PW, 

Gidget Digit's "firing" does re- 
veal a lot about her. When she was 
suspended, I was waiting for her to 
act. Surely a copy of the Sabotage 
article would appear on every co- 
worker's desk! Tied with red/ 
white/& blue, maybe. And when 
the time was up, surely she would 
walk into the VP's office with a 
colorful "letter of resignation," 
informing him that a copy of that 
letter was being circulated in every 
BofA branch in the Bay Area! As 
Saul Alinsky says, this "blunder" 
was the true opportunity when 
looked at in a clear light! But all she 
did was scurry around for another 
job, which she got (something she 
omits in her confessional letter... 
along with her real name). What a 
disappointment this letter was, 
coming before the well-written Sab- 
otage article!!! 

I remember well one member of 
the BEAVER 55 group Gidget Digit 
mentions. "X" was an honor grad 
student in physics at the U. of 
Chicago when they invaded the 
Hewlett Packard installation. Even 
though she was brilliant, she was 
subsequently blacklisted from every 
lab in the country. She took a job 
close to science — teaching it. But 
she found that painful because she 
itched to get into a real lab. So she 

changed careers, got married, end- 
ing up (last I heard) in, of all places, 
an ad agency! She had many a bout 
with her conscience... many times 
we had talks about whether she 
should've played it safe. She ac- 
companied Jane Kennedy when 
Jane turned herself in; she sobbed 
when she read the obit of another 
"friend" who had jumped off the 
Golden Gate Bridge. "That's the 
third one," she said. "They are 
getting us all." Was this "social 
critique" worth it? Who knows. It 
would be interesting to find out. 

Sincerely, Your Supporter Des- 
pite Poor Editing, 

Shirley Garzotto—SF 

P.S. It is OK if you reveal my name 
and address. I think you should be 
consistent about this: I may not 
agree with Mr. Wallis, but I think 
yoii treated him unfairly by printing 
his name and address. Boo! Hiss! 
Otherwise, #5 was a good read, as 

Ed. Note: Wally is a self-employed 
engineer. Revealing his identity 
does not threaten him or his job 
security. This is in contrast to most 
writers and contributors to PW 
whose jobs might be jeopardized if 
their real name were printed in PW. 

Dear PW: 

In the preface to her article in PW 
#5, Gidget Digit waxes ironic at the 
expense both of PW and herself. 
It's not clear how seriously she 
intends her self-description as a 
"professional anti-authoritarian re- 
volutionary" pursuing a "shadow 
career" in PW while working as a 
systems analyst for the Bank of 
America. But certainly she seems 
intent on tarring PW with the same 
brush: like Gidget herself, Pl/V's 
regulars stand accused of dishon- 
esty, for not revealing our "definite 
political backgrounds that stretch 
back for years" and implicitly 
therefore of manipulation. She 



admonishes us to analyze "our 
relationship as marginals, radicals 
and revolutionaries to the people we 
are approaching." 

The core of truth in Gidget's 
attack is that some of us developed 
fairly extreme and well-thought-out 
criticisms of the existing society in 
contexts other than office work — as 
students, as other kinds of workers 
and/or as activists against nuclear 
power, war, male domination and so 
on. Several of us, for that matter, 
are still sneakily active in such 
"outside" causes. Worse, one or 
two of us are not even currently 
office workers! How dishonest can 
you get? 

All of this, of course, misses the 
point. Processed World was not 
conceived by missionary leftists, 
"professional revolutionaries" who 
marched into the Financial District 
to educate the white-collar masses. 
Instead, a handful of people who 
had got into office work as one of 
the few ways open to them to make 
a living, got fed up with their 
isolation and with the silence 
around them concerning all the 
important questions. They set out to 
produce a vehicle of communication 
for others working in financial 
districts with similar attitudes to 
their jobs and the world at large. 

A general skepticism, even hos- 
tility, toward authority and an 
intense frustration with boring work 
are characteristic of many in our 
generation. The only thing different 
about the initiators of PW is that 
unlike most people, they have 
articulated these attitudes into a 
relatively coherent critique of the 
modern world and some (rather 
sketchier) visions of how it might be 
transformed. Some of PW's subse- 
quent associates, like me, share 
most of their outlook. Others shiare 
much less of it. 

In developing this critique and 
these visions, PW's founders very 
naturally drew on past radical 

traditions. Possibly they might be 
criticized for not discussing these 
further or referring readers to them 
(I would like to see, for instance, a 
series on great Utopians of the past, 
such as Charles Fourier and Wil- 
liam Morris. And a long article or 
even a special issue on the history of 
workers' movements, already ser- 
iously discussed in the group, ought 
to be produced). But PW has been 
anxious to avoid any association 
with the 57 varieties of boring 
leftism, from Tom Hayden to the 
Sparticist League or the RCP, that 
pollute the radical working class 
tradition with their authoritarian- 
ism, opportunism and hysteria. In 
the pages of a magazine that wants 
to be open to people without any 
"political" background, it is very 
difficult to discuss this tradition 
without creating such associations. 
A cursory treatment is likely to be 
confusing, and a lengthy one would 
take up too much of an already 
crowded magazine. Besides — and 
here's the rub — we vary widely in 
our interpretation of the tradition 
anyway, and the last thing we want 
is to fill PW's pages with endless 
debate about who was right or 
wrong in 1870 or 1921. Declarations 
of our beliefs couched in the 
specialized terminology of past 
revolutionary tendencies, however 
bold and honest they might make us 
feel, are more likely to confuse than 
clarify In most people's eyes. 

As to whether Gidget should have 
revealed more of her "politics" 
sooner to her co-workers, I'm not in 
a position to say. I suspect that 
she's being too hard on herself. 
Certainly it seems only prudent to 
sound out one's workmates care- 
fully before letting on too much, a 
prudence which has always been 
part of the agitator's and the 
organizer's task. Why get fired, or 
worse, merely for the sake of 
"honesty?" If she moved too slowly 
this was only a tactical mistake. 




We will all make further and 
bigger mistakes, and, I hope, learn 
from them. Once again, Pl/l/'s 
purpose is not to recruit or convert 
to a pre-existent ideology or organ- 
ization. The core group of Processed 
World has never made any secret of 
its views and aims, but neither has 
it imposed them on other contribu- 
tors. The immediate goal of PW is 
to make possible the sharing of 
ideas, emotions and perceptions, 
and to further debate about strategy 
and tactics among rebels in the 
workaday world. I hope to see this 
debate continue, not only in Pl/V's 
pages but in the cafeterias, rest- 
rooms and elevators of downtown, 
beyond our immediate contact or 
influence. I am only too aware of 
how vague and flawed are our 
visions of change, and I know that 
only the experience and creativity of 
countless others can give them 
clearer and more tangible form. 

Yours objectionably, 
Louis Michaelson 

Dear Staff: 

FANTASTIC! In the midst of 
uniformity and digital death, art 
survives! I read my first issue of PW 
(#4) at the June 12th peace rally, 
and I was impressed. I really liked 
the creative xerox art the most (did 
you know that "xerox" is the greek 
word for "draw"??), and also the 
information on office uprisings. The 
healthy weight and thickness of the 
booklet itself proves something 
about audience response. 

I know. I work for a major 
minicomputer company in Embar- 
cadero IV, doing field repair work, 
and I see the firsthand results of 
digitalized society every day, from 
the endless parade on Market street 
to the poor file clerks holed up in the 
giant glass prisons that line the 
streets of our fair, postcard-perfect 
city. Anyway. Keep up the good 


Jose's Son— SF 




The truth about "Close Door" buttons 



QUESTION: What does the "Door Close" button In an 
automatic elevator really do? 

ANSWER: Door Close buttons do nothing, In general. That's 
from an elevator service expert. That button gives you 
something to do while you're waiting for the door to close. 
Doors set to close automatically respond to their own Inter- 
nal commands without accepting any overriding signals from 
the Door Close buttons. 



Zcrox two copies of this page, cut out the "True Fact" coupon and scotch 

tape it above the "Door Close" button on the next two elevators you ride. 







"You have certainly observed the 
curious fact that a given word which ia 
perfectly clear when you hear it or use it 
in everyday language, and which does 
not give rise to any difficulty when it is 
engaged in the rapid movement of an 
ordinary sentence becomes magically 
embarrassing, introduces a strange 
resistance, frustrates any effort at 
definition as soon as you take it out of 
circulation to examine it separately and 
look for its meaning after taking away 
its instantaneous function." 

— Paul Valery, from Variete V. 
* * ^t 

Paul Valery has summarized the 
critical approach to existing society, 
not with reference to specific institu- 
tions, but to the most fundamental 
expression of social being — language. 
We know that there is more to 
language than "words, words, 
words." What holds these words 
together is not just a given grammati- 
cal or syntactical structure, but an 
entire complex of social traditions that 
give meaning to the combinations of 
sounds we use in our daily life, the 
hidden order behind the "rapid 
movements of ordinary sentences." 

Valery's observations can be 
expressed more briefly £ind colloquially 
as "All words are loaded." Loaded in 
the sense that dice are loaded by. an 
unscrupulous gambler who, much to 
his opponents' consternation, 
manages to win every time. In such 
circumstances, a casual onlooker 
would say that the loser's first and 

worst mistake was to allow the hustler 
to supply his own dice. And so it is 
with language. Since the categories 
and concepts on which we rely to 
make ourselves understood have been 
transmitted to us from birth, we 
become entangled in a tradition so 
all-pervasive that even our attempts 
to name and thus understand our 
situation tend to be accommodated to 
the ruling definitions which, as ever, 
are those of the ruUng classes. 

Imagine (or recall) a subordinate 
who comes into conflict with her boss, 
or a group of workers taking a 
grievance to their supervisor. By 
speaking for themselves, they become 
aware of the radical discrepancy 
between their interests and those of 
management. The everyday fog of 
polite banalities is beginning to Uft. 
However, once the die is cast, it turns 
out — unexpectedly — to be loaded. 
The boss rises, perhaps with a super- 
cilious smile on his face, and motions 
his interlocutor(s) to the door, saying, 
"It's obvious that we don't speak the 
same language." 

At this juncture, the most common 
reaction for the momentarily unruly 
employee! s) is to back off in the fear 
that nothing will be salvaged from this 
confrontation. "Well, that's not true, 
it's all a misunderstanding, 
really ..." and then the search for 
mutual comprehensibiUty begins. Re- 
gardless of the outcome, it will always 
favor the boss, simply because pro- 
claiming his monopoly on definition 


pnarfssEO (tqald 

has enabled him to regain effective 
control — over the use of his own 
loaded dice. 

But what if our rebellious worker (s) 
had retorted, "Damn right we don't 
speak the same language, and a good 
thing too"? The workers and students 
of Poland have shown us the radical 
consequences of such an attitude. 
Since 1956, the popular opposition to 
the successive Stalinist, neo-Stalinist, 
and military regimes in Poland has 
been directed as much against the 
ossified, constipated language of the 
ruling bureaucracy's propagsmda as 
against material injustice. During the 
PoUsh Autumn of 1980, the intoxica- 
tion of uninhibited dialogue led to an 
explosion of underground publications 
which not even miUteiry rule could 

In company with rebels throughout 
history, the Polish insurgents grasped 
the intimate relation between the 
liberation of society from the state 
and the reclaiming of language from 
its bureaucratic proprietors. The de- 
mand for the abolition of the Com- 
munist Party's system of nomenkla- 
tura — where obtaining positions 
depends on official protection — is 
equally a fight against a broader 
structure of nomenclature: the power 
to arrogate exclusive control over 
social meanings and thereby deny 
(rewrite) the history across which 
words evolve in search of their hidden 
truths. Is it any wonder that literary 
and poetic experimentation flourish 
during periods of popular social up- 
heaval? Whether ideas improve or 
degenerate, the meaning of words 
participates in the process. 

All words, then, are not just loaded; 
they are live ammunition in a social 
war. The same words that buttress 
Power can be used to undermine it, 
but only if such concepts or keywords 
are examined for their multiple mea- 
nings. Each word must first be 
removed from its customary context, 
or borrowing Valery's phraseology, 
taken out of circulation and deprived 

of its instantaneous function. (Sabo- 
tage is a similar technique applied to 
objects or social relationships.) With- 
out the magic cloak of daily routine to 
render its meaning invisible, the word 
begins to assert that embarrassing 
power to which Valery refers. How is 
it that we persist in allowing certain 
words to dominate our lives, even 
though we can't explain how they 
worked their way into our speech? 

Certainly, the dictionary explains 
word origins, but only as components 
of static definitions, arranged nume- 
rically on an arbitrary scale of impor- 
tance. Yet language is above all 
dynamic. The multitude of popular 
grammars, vocabularies, and speech 
patterns — abusively termed "slang" 
by linguistic authorities — shows that 
for all the trends toward increasing 
uniformity of thought and expression, 
language preserves its playful quaU- 
ties. In the end, we ourselves are the 
alchemists of the words we use. 

It follows that we need not respect 
the supposed finality of any defini- 
tion. The decomposition of language 
in the grip of bureaucratic reason calls 
for irreverent new counter-practices, 
where influential keywords can be 
actively de-composed and recom- 
posed according to imaginative whim. 
From such a perspective, words that 
have been particularly abused reveal 
surprising implications, especially 
when viewed in the light of older, 
seemingly outmoded definitions. 

I have chosen to play with seven 
such words. Each has its own history. 
Far from being buzzwords, they are 
all relentlessly banal, integral threads 
in the texture of the processed world, 
and thus all the more diverting to 
unravel. In order of consideration, 

Roman law is the source of the word 
"corporation," which came to mean 
an entity, formed for a specific pur- 
pose, that was considered to have a 
legal existence over and above the 









individuals who comprised it. Once 
rules and regulations became institu- 
tionalized, the individual became of 
less consequence than the structure 
that incorporated him into its func- 
tions. A corporate officer is judged 
according to his ability to personify 
the qualities associated with the com- 
pany's mission, the better to pass 
himself off as a servant rather than a 
shaper of policy. If challenged on a 
specific arbitrary procedure, he will 
invariably seek refuge in the cliche, 
"That's the way we do things here." 
This domination of concrete activity 
by a fictitious — lifeless — represen- 
tation, which Karl Marx saw as 
characteristic of alienated labor, is 
hinted at in the root word of * 'corpora- 
taion," corpus, with its evocation of 
inertia and death. Indeed, the deadly 
silence that pervades the corridors of 
power can only be compared to a 
morgue. And judging from organiza- 
tional charts — those bizarre convolu- 
tions of boxes connected by solid or 
broken lines — the body has become 
somewhat swollen. In 18th century 
England, a fat stomach was jestingly 
called a "corporation." This compari- 

son retains its accuracy, for corpora- 
tions create nothing, they only feed 
off others and excrete the results. 

Offices are the limbs of the corporate 
corpse. Originally, the word "office" 
referred not to the physical backdrop 
for the performance of work, but to 
the particular array of tasks entrusted 
to an individual. Any kind of service 
carried out regularly for someone else 
was deemed an "office," and a 
certain amount of prestige accrued to 
anyone who discharged the duties of 
his office properly. That the scope of 
the term should eventually encom- 
pass the workplace is a testimony to 
the growing depersonalization and 
interchangeability of functions. Ulti- 
mately, the content of what one does 
pales in comparison to the necessity 
of blending it into the overall environ- 
ment. Our office becomes . . . the 
office. While it may be impossible to 
take pride in one's job {jobbe, the 
Middle English word meaning 
"lump"), we are supposed to draw 
comfort from efficiently fitting into a 
smooth operation, and forget that the 
whole process reduces us to insensate 
lumps. Fortunately for our sense of 
black humor, another definition of 
"office" is "toilet," and in fact some 
of the office worker's rare moments of 
privacy are spent in the privy offices. 
How much more healthful and con- 
ducive to contemplation are these 
cramped stalls than the assorted 
departments, sections, and units that 
empty tons of waste into an already 
saturated world! 

Corporations yoke large numbers of 
people to their team by means of stiff 
clerical collars. Medieval clerks were 
scholars who usually toiled away at 
some level of the ecclesiastical hie- 
rarchy. With the gradual seculariza- 
tion of European society, the word 
came to include anyone who kept 
records and accounts for somebody 
else. Nowadays, we know that clerks 
don't have to be scholars, particularly 
when all it takes to carry out most jobs 
are a few motor functions. Through 



the irony of history, however, many 
so-called educated people, the clerks 
of an earlier era, have over the past 
several years joined the modem cleri- 
cal orders. Although the work ethic 
has displaced the crucified Christ, the 
religious illusion maintains its essen- 
tial continuity; clerks now sacrifice 
themselves for God & Co. The spell 
can only be broken by a revived anti- 
clerical movement to crush the infamy 
of wage-labor. 

Like "clerk," the evolution of the 
word "secretary" illustrates the de- 
cline of a once-privileged social role 
into a subservient position. The key to 
its meaning lies in the first five letters 
— secret — implying an element of 
personal contact and service. In the 
world of Renaissance poUtical intrigue, 
a secretary was usually an aide-de- 
camp to powerful men; although 
clearly subordinate to his nobly-born 
master, the secretary, in his capaci- 
ties as scribe and guardian of the 
secrets, was still in a position to 
exercise influence. Even up to the 
nineteenth century, secretaries were 
their bosses' right-hand men. 

Following the introduction of 
"scientific management" techniques 
into the workplace and the resultant 
growth of centralized bureaucracies, 
women entered the labor force in large 
numbers and the position of secretary 
took on new meaning. Women's 
enforced submissiveness in the home 
was duplicated in the relationship of 
the female secretary to her male boss. 
Some degree of secrecy and confi- 
dence remained, as the secretary 
knew almost everj^hing that had to do 
with her boss's job. Unlike her male 
predecessors, though, she exerted 
little real influence over her boss's 
decisions, and was deemed worthy of 
notice only to the extent of her ability 
to carry out — and preferably antici- 
pate — her boss's wishes. She be- 
came indispensable only if she stayed 
in the same place all her life. These 
days, most secretaries keep secrets 
less for their bosses than from them- 

selves. They can't talk about how 
much money they earn. Many still try 
to endow their jobs with a long- 
vanished aura of prestige, and are 
encouraged to see things through their 
boss's eyes. 

Managers benefit from their 
secretaries' activity. So assiduously 
do they guard their puny shares of 
authority, and so vigorously do they 
proclaim it, that they should be 
reminded of menage, a root word of 
"manager" which means "house- 
keeping." In a sense, managers are 
housekeepers for capital: witness the 
anal-retentiveness of the typical 
manager who, like a housekeeper, is 
applauded for his "attention to 
detail." The active sense of the word 
"manage" originates in the process 
of training horses for a show, which 
even today is still called a manege. 
"Management training" is therefore 
a redundancy. The implications are 
there for all to see: taming, bridling, 
and controlling. A manager's success 
is gauged by how well he is able to put 
his troops through their intricately- 
choreographed paces. 

If these human horses are to fulfill 











their potential as a team, they will 
each have to be professionals in their 
jobs. Often, the label of "profes- 
sional" gains quasi-mystical signifi- 
cance in the eyes of its disciples: ' 'We 
have to approach the problem profes- 
sionally," "My professional opinion 
is blah-blah-blah." How appropriate 
that such an article of faith should 
be . . . professed. Like their religious 
forebears who earnestly studied dog- 
ma, today's professionals must pass 
through various stages of initiation — 
MBA's, systems analysis, manage- 
ment courses — before they can be 
professed in the corporate credo. 
Centuries ago, theology, law, and 
medicine were termed the "three 
professions," and the latter two fields 
continue to enjoy at least financial 
prestige. Theology, it is true, has 
fallen on bad days, but possibly 
computer programming, with its con- 
voluted language, pecuHar incanta- 
tions, and the devotional fervor of its 
practitioners, might fill the gap. 

Within the confines of their 
vocations, professionals follow an in- 
dividual trajectory called a "career." 
Careers are described in the termino- 
logy of a footrace — goals are striven 
for, hurdles are encountered along 
the path, and newly-minted careerists 
note with satisfaction that they are * 'off 
and running" or "on track" towards 
the fulfillment of their ambition. But 
the word "career" actually implies a 
race far removed from jogging. The 
root of "career" is a word meaning 
"chariot," and its associations evoke 
a chariot careening down a steep path 
in full career. A rat race, perhaps? 
Indeed, most careers are headlong 
dashes into an uncertain future 
fraught with the perils of ulcers and 
heart disease. There are always new 
procedures to learn, new courses to 
take, new political configurations to 
adjust to, unexpected reversals — 
and through it all loom, tantalizingly 
out of reach, those ever-elusive 
"goals." For many, the promises of a 
career, with its connotations of move- 



ment and progress, are preferable to 
those of a job, with its overtones of 
inertia and lumpishness. However, at 
the end of a career, very often another 
meaning emerges — the fixed paths 
of celestial bodies, which when trans- 
planted into human existence turn out 
to be ruts. 

In his epic poem Altazor, the 
Chilean poet Vicente Huidobro pro- 
claimed: "All the languages are 
dead/Dead in the hands of the tragic 
neighbor/We must revive the lan- 
guages/With wagons of giggles/With 
short-circuits in the sentences/ And 
cataclysm in the grammar." His 
exhortation strikes a sympathetic note 
in all of us who are stuck in work- 
places and forced to shoulder a 
burden of processed words. We have 
the power to breathe life into the 
endless procession of meaningless, 
artificial phrases, simply by unloading 
our wagons of giggles and short- 
circuiting sentences at their weakest 
link — the individual word. We can 
employ the tactic of the deUberate 
Freudian slip; if a letter or two is 
altered in a word, numerous dis- 
turbing affinities appear. Corporation 
becomes coporation; anti-trust meta- 
morphoses into anti-tryst. With the 

addition of a prefix, personnel be- 
comes impersonnel, and the mere 
deletion of an "i" reveals an ominous 
aspect of policies — polices. Homo- 
nyms are dangerous as well — whence 
comes the strange sonic symbiosis 
between supervisor and snooperuisor? 
Or memorandum and memorondumb? 
Anti-lexicons of de-composed 
keywords can be prepared and folded 
into the vest-pocket-sized Basic Secre- 
tarial Terms that clutters up so many 
desks. Against the ignorant mystifi- 
cation of manufactured speech and 
computer ' 'languages, ' ' the technique 
of words in freedom must be practiced. 
Sound poems and abstract patterns of 
letters and words can be easily 
constructed and printed on word 
processing equipment and clandes- 
tinely distributed along with scanda- 
lous xero-graphic collages, with re- 
sults undreamed of by the old Dadaists . 
Language can thereby start to regain 
its function not just as a means of 



communication, but as a means of 
revelation. Huidobro's demand for 
"a beautiful madness in the life of the 
word" needs only the addition of a 
"1" to the last "word" to become an 
articulation of our desire for a new 
life, and of the intimate bond between 
our words and our world. 

"And since we must live and not kill 
ourselves/As long as we live let us 
play/The simple game of words/Of 
the pure word and nothing more." 

— Vicente Huidobro 
ir om Altazor, Cguito HI 

— Christopher Winks 





[MrMs] [First] [Last] 


[City], [State] [Zip] 


Dear [MrlVIs] [Last], 

Thank you for your interest in [Interest]. 
Enclosed you will find [Enclosure]. If you 
have any further questions, do not hesitate 
to call me at [Telephone]. 


75487 01 100 



This unique text will completely revolutionize businesss 
communications. At last, the Model T of DP, a business 
letter that requires no human intervention! This 
remarkable letter can be used by any business, any 
place, anytime, for any purpose. Change nothing — 
save time, money, and cut back expensive management 

I- aik- .Ik .flk .da .<&_ .ift. .Ak. ^flk. .ik. 





Once again my money ran out and it 
was time to end another glorious bout 
of unemployment. It took 5 or 6 
interviews, but just when I was 
beginning to believe those screaming 
headlines of economic doom, I scored 
a job at an advertising/public rela- 
tions firm. Welcome aboard. 

Ah, the illustrious Solem Asso- 
ciates (a.k.a. Hype, Inc.), nestled on 
the edge of the Tenderloin. I would 
spend the next four months here 
entangled in the illogic of doublethink 
and plain old fashioned lies and 

Solem Associates survives through 
political connections. Mr. and Mrs. 
Hype and many of the ever-eager 
Hype Associates are close pals with 
S.F.'s own Lady Di and other liberal 
party hacks. Solem specializes in 
anti-rent control campaigns. The fi- 
nancial backing of local real estate 
interests enables Solem to assume 
one of its many disguises, "Citizens 
for Fair Housing," which in turn 
allows them to produce tons of glossy 
literature to convince "citizens" that 
affordable housing, tenant security, 
and an end to bureaucracy await those 
who vote against rent control. 


Most recently Solem has been busy 
saving S.F. from municipalized elec- 
tricity. They also run two relatively 
benign state-funded projects. Half the 
staff works on The War Against 
Waste! This consists of taking photos 
of a man in a ' 'Wasteless Willie" bear 
costume and mailing tons of "Waste- 
less Wilhe" literature to unsus- 
pecting citizens. Solem and "Waste- 
less Willie" produced and discarded 
— due to mistakes or because the 
literature was outdated — a truly 
obscene amount of paper. 

My job was project secretary and 
chief flunky for the "Family Com- 


munication Program." With a million 
bucks from the State of California, 
Solem Associates spewed forth yet 
more glossy literature and a half 
dozen annoying radio and TV com- 
mercials. The object? To stop teen 
pregnancies. "The unique aspect of 
this program," Mrs. Hype proudly 
announced "is that it has no con- 
tent!" The milUon dollars (spent at a 
time when community health clinics 
and other direct service agencies are 
screaming for funds) was merely to 
convince parents to talk to their kids 
about sex, and not, of course, to 
promote contraceptive use or to en- 
courage responsible attitudes towards 
sexual activity. This would have been 
much too controversial. 

The "Teens Please Don't Fuck" 
program employed 20 people and was 
heavy on tokenism. Before the field 
staff was hired, I overheard the 
bosses musing, "Well, we've got one 
Asian, we could use one Japanese... 
we've got two Blacks, how about 
another Black and another Hispan- 
ic..." Once the proper racial/ethnic 
blend was selected, these 14 troopers 
contacted community groups and en- 
couraged them to sponsor workshops 

on parent communication — which 
hardly anyone would attend. These 
workshops, plus the program Uter- 
ature and media advertisements, 
were our product and my daily work. 

While the actual content of my job 
was absurd, the work itself was 
strictly secondary to the exciting 
terrains of office poUtics and office 
social life. 

What kind of people are attracted to 
advertising/public relations? The 
prime mark of a Solem-lifer was that, 
although they might bitch and moan 
about the task at hand, deep down 
they believed in what they were 
doing, or at least believed in the 
possibility of an exciting career in 
public relations. 

I sat in a cubicle surrounded by a 
four foot partition and watched over 
by the mandatory flickering fluores- 
cent lights. There was not a rezd wall 
to be found in the entire office. The 
partitions gave the illusion of privacy, 
but attentive ears in adjacent cubicles 
assured the rapid spread of gossip. 
Through scraps of conversation float- 
ing into my unit I quickly identified all 
the office types. Like the Most Crea- 
tive Man in S.F., or so he believed 
when buzzed on coke which was most 
of the time. Or the Office Spy who 
stared hawk-like into all the cubicles, 
ever vigilant for any infraction of 
rules. Once he discovered someone 
using the postage meter to mail a 
letter to her mother and deducted 
$.20 from her paycheck. 

A curious aspect of Solem Associ- 
ates was that for the most part my 
four supervisors were so wrapped up 
in the details of their various projects 
that they rarely noticed what I was up 
to. As long as I delivered a minimum 
amount of work which met their 
loosely defined standards of profes- 
sionalism they left me alone. 

On the other hand, the abundant 
"support staffers" were eager to step 
into supervisory roles. Even with the 
obliviousness of my bosses, I still 
found it necessary to try to hide the 



many little ways I ignored the rules 
and procedures and to cover up any of 
my mistakes. It took me a long time to 
understand that I really could not 
trust most of my coworkers. And in 
the meantime, I nearly lost my job by 
confiding too much about my political 
beliefs and my very critical attitude 
towards wage labor. 

"Chatty Kathy" sat in the cubicle 
next to me: she loved her job as a 
secretary and talked in an excrucia- 
tingly loud voice about the endless 
details of each little task. "Chatty 
Kathy" also loved to play snooper- 
visor and was responsible for firing 
two clerical workers. Chatty dis- 
covered that one woman who had 












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claimed family emergency was ac- 
tually on vacation, so of course Chatty 
ran to Office Spy who was more than 
happy to bump her from the payroll. 
Chatty's second victim was a single 
mother who sometimes came in late 
when she had to take care of her son. 
Chatty thought her commitment to 
something or somebody outside work 
was very unprofessional and used her 
influence to get her fired. 

Along with the vicious manoeuv- 
ering for power and prestige was an 
exaggerated superficial friendliness. 
One minute my "cell mate" would 
give someone the finger behind their 
back, and the next she would exclaim 
(to the same person) "Oh, you're the 

Solem Associates was going bust. 
They lost contract after contract. The 
candidate they promoted in the de- 
mocratic primary lost big. Each new 
defeat meant a few more layoffs. The 
remaining people became more fran- 
tic about continually proving their 
worth, primarily by trying to point out 
other people's lack of worth. While 
the failure of the firm was on every- 
one's mind, it was never the subject 
of open conversation — just whispers 
in the corridor about who would be 
the next to go. 

Money for the "Hey Don't Fuck" 
program ran out and to my inmiense 
joy and relief I was laid off. Now I'm 
safely on unemployment and wonder- 
ing how long I can stretch it before 
once again I'll be compelled to enter 
what so many people think of as the 
real world. 

— Helen Highwater 



^ ooymnuE! 

Ten Ways to Wreck a Digital Video Terminal 

by Digit 

Hi there: 

My pen-name is Digit-Dogshit . . . 
Why??? Because dogshit is every- 
where. It's in the city, it's in the 
country, it's on the mountaintop, and 
it's in the valley. 

Of course, I can't give my real 
name, because if my boss sees this I 
would most certainly get fired and/or 
arrested by the police/FBI. 

So here goes— 10 ways to wreck a 

1.) Coffee poured into the key- 
board is effective in gumming up the 
works, but instead of using sugar in 
the coffee, use salt instead— about 3-5 
times as much salt as you would use 
sugar. You see, saltwater is quite 
conductive to electricity and very cor- 
rosive to the foil-conductors on the 
circuit boards. It will short-circuit the 
integrated circuit (I.C.) chips on the 
board and screw things up very nicely 
(use lye or drano solution if possible). 

2). If possible, remove the cover of 
the DVT. Then try unplugging the 
circuit boards with the power-on and 
replugging them in again. This is a 
very effective way to blow-out every 
I.C. chip and transistor on the board. 
I.C. chips and transistors can't st£ind 
this kind of treatment and will blow- 
out every time. (I know— I have done 
it.) (Caution: very high-voltages are 
present at the CRT, and touching the 
CRT could cause you to get the liv- 
ing-shit shocked right out of you. So 
be careful.) 



3.) Try reversing the ribbon-cables 
connectors if possible. This will really 
screw things up. 

4.) Bring cuticle-cutters to the 
workplace and cut a few conductors in 
the ribbon cable. This will cause end- 
less problems. 

5 . ) Dump metal paperclips , staples , 
BBs, tacks, aluminum foil pieces, etc. 
into the DVT cooling slots. Hopefully 
they will land on some circuit boards, 
and cause short circuits and other 
nasty problems. 

6.) Cigarette smoke causes prob- 
lems with the circuit boards. It con- 
denses and coats the slip-connectors 
on the printed circuit boards and then 
they don't want to make contact any- 
more. So blow as much smoke as pos- 
sible into the DVT. 

7.) Be creative: remove I.C. chips 
from their sockets, and put them in 
backwards. This will cause untold 
problems and drive the repair tech- 
nicians crazy. 

8.) Floppy diskettes are very sen- 
sitive to magnetic fields. Some disk- 
ettes have the software programming 
on the outer edge of the disk. Run a 
magnet across the disk a few times in 
different directions. This will make 
life interesting for your supervisors 
and bosses and a magnet leaves no 
trace, unlike staples, paperclips, and 
ball point pens which are too obvious 
to the eye. 

9.) A bulk tape eraser (used for 
erasing stereo tapes) is very effective 


in erasing all digital bits from a disk- 
ette. Even a tapehead demagnetizer 
can be used effectively this way. 
10.) Put a plastic magnet or a 
rare-earth cobalt magnet (the most 
powerful magnet made) inside of a 

finger ring. No one will ever suspect 
that it is there, provided you don't get 
paper clips or staples stuck to the 
ring. So when you handle the disk- 
ettes, run your ring across them a few 

The Worship of Holidays 

A policy allowing federal employ- 
ees time off for religious observances 
is being widely abused. Religious leav 
is taken under a law authorizing such 
time off but requiring that the time be 
made up. However, the inspector 
general said, records are often in- 
complete and the makeup — if there 
is any — may be at a time when it is of 
little use to the government. 

According to a Health and Human 
Services Dept. report, most religious 
leave was requested for days off 
before and after holidays, Fridays and 
Mondays, and weeks during the 
summer vacation season. Days sur- 
roimding federal holidays were most 

Among the cases reported were: 

• On July 5 and 6, following the 
Independence Day holiday, 75% of 
the 325 employees in one branch were 
absent each day on religious leave. 

• On December 26, 27, 28 and 31, 
an average of 27% of the 390 
employees in one branch were absent 
each day for religious observance. 

• One office with 9,200 employees 

reported 5,066 religious leave days 
taken the week after Christmas and 
the day after New Year's; 269 days on 
the days before and after Memorial 
Day weekend; 211 days on the state's 
Memorial Day holiday; 1,387 days in 
the week following July 4. 

• On Good Friday and Easter 
Monday one unit reported 70% of its 
key punchers, four of its six console 
operators and five of 10 supervisors 

The guidelines for religious leave 
are based on an opinion of the Office 
of Personnel Management's general 
counsel that S£ud: 

"As a practical matter, agencies 
are required to accept at face value 
claims that employees are entitled to 
take time off... Consequently, any 
attempt to deal with abuses... may 
not extend to inquiring as to the 
legitimacy of the reasons why the 
employee seeks time off for religious 

Amen. And see you at the beach I 

— based on Washington Post 2/82 



Pravda Blasts Work Shirkers 


The Soviet Communist 
Party newspaper Pravda yes- 
terday lashed out at shirkers, 
pointing out as one example 
workers at a factory in the 
Urals who took turns having a 
week's vacation while col- 
leagues covered for them at 
their machines. 

The paper, calling for tougher 
measures against shirkers, said the 
case was symptomatic of wide- 
spread idleness and illegal absen- 

teeism throughout Soviet industry. 

It said employees at the factory 
in Uralsk boasted to workers else- 
where about their vacation scheme. 

The management dkl not no- 
tice the absent staff because the 
factory's production pUs waa Msf 
fulfilled without difficulty and one 
of those involved received an honor 
for hard work, Pravda said. 

It reminded readers that mil- 
lions of people in the West were 


More Trouble in "Paradise" 

Chinese Communist Party Chair- 
man Hu Yaobang has told the nation 
he wants an improved work attitude 
and an end to "unscrupulously pur- 
suing personal enjoyment" in the 
next five years. 

Hu said better morality "means 

putting an effective check on, and 
arousing universal contempt for, such 
unhealthy tendencies and practices as 
loving ease and hating work... 

—S.F. Chronicle 9/3/82 

It Even Counts Your Feces! 

Sneaking into work late or taking an 
extended coffee break may soon be 
only memories. A Dutch company has 
developed a way for employers to 
keep track of their workers' where- 
abouts with a computer. Employees 
carry passes the size of a cigarette 
pack which emit an electronic signal 
that is picked up by sensors around 
the office. Too much time around the 
water cooler will show up in the 
computer. The system — called 

"VORTACS" - can also keep track 
of the number of employees in the 
building, how many of them plan to 
eat in the cafeteria, and even remem- 
ber which of them are vegetarians. 
The company's British distributor 
predicts people will call the system 
"Big Brother," but adds, "They did 
the same thing when we introduced 
surveillance cameras into shops." 

New Scientist, 3/4/82 



i»»«t^i>»»«t»»>^ THEM 

The US Festival — the Labor Day 
weekend extravaganza that drew 
425,000 spectators and 1000 reporters 
to a smog-smothered, heat-baked 
park in the foothills of the San Berna- 
dino Mountains — was intended to be 
not just a rock concert, but a genuine 
Cultural Watershed. Most commen- 
tators, even those in the Los Angeles 
daily newspapers, concluded in relief 
that it's still not possible to produce a 
world-historical event on cue. 

But the US Festival was definitely 
state-of-the-art spectacle, with all the 
latest advances in consciousness ra- 
zing. It foisted on its massive audience 
not only uninterrupted commercialism 
and propaganda for prepackaged 
techno-utopia, but also a silly if 
vaguely ominous "US philosophy." 
According to the promotional litera- 
ture, what is meant by "us" is 
"government and industry, manage- 
ment and labor . . . joining forces to 
improve the quality of life for 

The Festival was dresuned up and 
personally bankrolled by ex-compu- 
ter nurd, nouveau multimillionaire 
Steven Wozniak, who sunk twelve and 
a half of his millions into the rock 
concert and a Technology Fair. And 
no one was supposed to forget it for a 

Over $2 million went into shoveling 
around dirt to create the world's 
largest "natural" amphitheater. At 
one end of this concert bowl sat the 
giant stage, flanked by three huge 
video screens and two almost-apple- 
shaped backdrops rendered in the 
rainbow colors of Apple Computer 
Inc. In case this commercial was too 
subtle, a hot air balloon decorated with 
the Apple Corporate sjnnbol loomed 
continuously at left. (Though Apple 
Computers was careful to remain 
officially separate from the US Festi- 
val, the publicity it received as a 
result of the show is priceless.) 

At night, when the full moon rose, 

the lasers turned on, and lights 
played on the flashy "US" logo, the 
amphitheater resembled nothing as 
much as a colossal video game. The 
world's largest sound system, a truly 
impressive 400,000 watts, broadcast 
the world's top rock bands 2ind the US 
philosophy to the very edges of the 
concert bowl. 

Campsites for 110,000 had been 
provided, but they were your basic 
parking-lot-and-port-a-potty variety. 
A special freeway ramp had been 
constructed and a shuttle bus system 
set up to handle the Festival traffic; 
nonetheless, it took up to three hours 
to get in or out of the concert site. 

The US Festival was much touted 
as a model of efficiency in crowd- 
pleasing. No riots. The bands stayed 
on schedule. Everyone was mellow. 
But so what? Is this the best we can 
expect from our brave new techno- 
future — that the buses run, even if 
not quite on time, and that the toilets 
don't overflow? 

In return for the "party of the 
century," most of the crowd seemed 
perfectly willing to show obsequious 
gratitude. When the water cannons 
on stage were turned on between sets 
and sprayed at the sweaty masses, 
the crowd roared and surged toward 
the source, arms waving worshipfuUy 
in the air. And "Woz" was given a 
thunderous ovation when he appeared 
on the stage with his newborn son. 
The cash transactions at ticket offices 
across the land were somehow 

It's fine with me that people want to 
party rather than to analyze, but must 
they parrot the packaged line so 
unconsciously? As I worked the Festi- 
val with my tape recorder, I found 
little in the way of critical awareness. 
Even when I probed it was, "Let's 
hope this is the US decade." "It's a 
good idea to cooperate." "I think it's 
about time we all worked together." 

Everyone seemed to accept the 



Another Day At The Offi 


ce: What Have We Lost? 

Festival's commercialism and the 
hierarchy of the cash nexus as per- 
fectly natural. "It's Woz's money," 
they told me over and over again. 
"He can do whatever he wants with 


No one questioned the assumption, 
shared by Wozniak and a lot of others 
who are blissed out on computers, 
that what's good for the Information 
Society is good for computer company 
executives, data entry clerks, and 

Third World electronics assembly 
workers alike. 

It is a well-known truism of the 
personal computer world that the 
market out there must be educated. 
To introduce a completely new kind of 
commodity, new desires must be 
developed. What are the masses 
going to do with a personal computer 
in the living room? Does Mom really 
want to put her shopping lists and 
recipe on line? 

BFB: Can Modern Technology Improve 
the Human Brain? 

We're taking advantage of the latest advances in science to bring 
you the smartest, yet most pliable, workers ever. Top quality silicon 
chips will be surgically implanted in your own information 
processors. Special obedience training in every chip — now your 
workers will love to make your- data flow! And you'll love watching 
their fingers fly, knowing it's all for your profits! 

BFB: Brains fur Bosses, Inc. 

34 p(\orEssED irat^-Li] 

Apple Computers has been particu- 
larly aggressive in preparing the 
ground. One of its schemes (er, 
marketing tactics) is to hook young 
kids on its machines by donating an 
Apple to every elementary, junior 
high school and high school in the 
country. In exchange, it is getting a 
tax break from the government. 

For peddlers of the computer age, 
the US Festival was the way to the 
hearts of another demographic group. 
The special challenge presented by 
the 20-to-30-year-old set is that some 
residual influence of a counterculture 
once associated with ' 'back to nature" 
might have infected it with suspicions 
of high technology. Nothing like a big 
party thrown by a Wizard of Woz to 
•oothe any lingering fears. And what 
a coup it was: the whole Malibu Beach 
bunny crowd was somehow convinced 
that a technology exhibit in the desert 
was the place to be. 

The real distinguishing characteris- 
tic of the US Festival was its self- 
importance, its claim to greatness. 
From its inception, Wozniak stressed 
that the Festival would * 'mark the end 
of the 'me' decade £md the beginning 
of the 'us' decade." 

If only by virtue of consolidating 
already existing techniques of crowd 
control and image manipulation, the 
US Festival was an advance on the 
bread £md circuses of the past. Telling- 
ly, its history is described in the 
official program as though it were a 
movie. "If this were a film epic, it 
would begin with the inspiration of 
one man, Steven Wozniak," the story 
begins. It goes on this way for pages: 
"Here the film would have quick 
cuts . . . Here, in the film, is the 
opportunity for some great effects." 

For most of us extras in the 
audience, passive enjoyment was all 
that was required. It was impossible 
for any significant proportion of such 


a crowd to see the stage; most saw 
only multiples of the camera's view on 
the much larger-than-life screens. In 
spite of — or perhaps because of — 
the clarity of the sound system, most 
of us may as well have been watching 
a movie. 

Besides showing off superstars and 
light shows, the giant screens inter- 
mittently played images of the crowd 
back to itself. There we were, dancing 
and laughing and being happy. This 
was an important enhancement of 
spectacle-making abilities: mid-course 
myth correction. Just in case any 
spectators are in doubt, the screen 
tells us that we're having a great 

Though Wozniak wound up in the 
black on the venture, his protestations 
of indifference about making money 
on it are significant. The US Festival 
was far more important as a spectacle 
than as a way to make money. 
Production is organized to maximize 
control as well as profit; the organiza- 
tion of consumption has similar goals. 

The sweaty mass of young middle 
Americans at the US Festival came to 
"party down" — and left, for the 
most part, feeling they'd gotten their 
money's worth. They were enter- 
tained, and assured that by their 
presence they'd made history. But 
these golden surfer boys and Valley 
girls (and students, and young wor- 
kers, and aging hippies, and computer 

hobbyists, and families with babies) 
are being softened up. 

The promise is flashy computer 
baubles with the counter-cultural trap- 
pings of yore. The reality is a place on 
one end of an incessant broadcast of 
instructions and over-produced enter- 
tainment. It may go over big for a 
weekend, as an alternative to the drab 
routine of a job or the grind of 
unemployment, but hopefully it won't 
satisfy for long. 

— by Marcy Darnovsky 


Small Victory in Small Claims 

San Francisco, CA — A part-time 
Word Processor employed by Marsh 
& McLennan, Inc., the insurgince 
giant, has won a suit in San Freincisco 
Small Claims Court against his 
employer over a disputed pay increase . 

Arthur Evans, who has been with 
the compEuiy since January 1982, was 
awarded a permanent, court-ordered 
pay raise on September 7, 1982, by 
Pro-Tem Judge Ronald Larson. Judge 
Larson ordered Marsh & McLennan 
to raise Evans' salsiry from $650 a 
month to $715 a month with a 
decrease in the hours Evans has to 
work for this amount from 22 y2 hours 
a week to 20 hours. Evans was also 
awarded $260 in back pay. 

Evans filed suit against the company 
in July claiming he was promised a 
pay raise after three months' employ- 
ment, which the company later re- 
fused to grant because of, in the 

company's words, "the present busi- 
ness conditions." Evans contended in 
Small Claims Court that a specific 
figure was quoted to him for a 
subsequent raise when he was hired 
by the supervisor of the Word Pro- 
cessing Department and that the 
company was bound by that quotation. 
James F. King, Vice President of 
the San Francisco office of Marsh & 
McLennan at Three Embarcadero 
Center, originally granted E veins' in- 
crease but was subsequently over- 
ruled by the company's corporate 
headquarters in New York because of 
the latter 's apparent financigd diffi- 
culties. Evans argued that the New 
York headquarters of the corporate 
giant could not negate a monetary 
commitment previously made by the 
loccxl firm's word processing 

Groing Home 

The 14 Mission snaps, crackles and 
pops through the cold rain. The 
wretched refuse from the hives and 
gutters of the zona monetaria is its 
cargo tonight, every night. I travel in 
another dimension, but the quack of 
voices pierces my smooth flight. 

"We lost our receptionist Danny." 

Bitch, did you misplace him behind 
a filing cabinet? 

"Oh, what happened?" 

Shit, another receptionist story. I 
can put myself on automatic pilot for 
this one. 

"Well, he died." 

That was losing him. 


Notice the social worker "affect" 
here. This is called listening. 

"He came in to work and looked so 
sick that Gladys sent him in a cab to 


Boor devil, what a trip that must 
have been. At least he didn't have to 
check a medical dictionary before 
calling in sick. 

"They checked him over and sent 
him home that day." 

Kaiser's getting more efficient. 
Used to be that you'd die waiting for 
doctor to see you. Hope they got his 
medical insurance numbers. 
"Well, we didn't hear from him. A 
couple of days later his landlord 
called. I guess he hadn't seen Danny 
so he checked the apartment. Dan- 
ny 'd been dead for about a day or 

Sick, went to Kaiser in a cab, was 
checked over, sent home, died. 

"Does anyone know what he died 



Being misplaced, losing, riding the 
14 Mission, impersonating a recep- 
tionist, information pollution, loneli- 
ness, plague. 

'*We won't know until the 

God, I hope it isn't plague. 

*'We're all wearing black arm- 

And I thought it was just a trendy 

fashion thing. 

"He'd been with you quite a long 
time, hadn't he?" 

Minutes, hours, days, months, 
years. My Lord and my Redeemer, let 
me count them all. Danny, Danny. 

"Gee, the same thing happened at 
my office. We had this GET A 
worker. . . " 

— by J. Gulesian 


qN The Revolutionary New 



Say What You Really Think — And Get Away With It! 

Everyone knows your boss is a jerk, but does he? 

Tell him with clinically-proven Subliminal-eaze® . The message 
is between the bond. Subliminal-eaze® is specially encoded for 
maximum impact while remaining invisible to the naked eye! 

Comes in 4 color-coordinated messages: 

• Forhighsecurity information processors: "Copy and Distribute' 

• For the overzealous co-worker: "Take A Break!" 

• For the sabotage conscious: "Mangle This!" 

• For the boss: "I Am A Jerk!" 





Selene here, from Top Dollar Temps. Sure was J) 
swell to see you at the contest! / 

*«<^ aoiifl«5? 

1 noticed your score was pretty low and honey you know we 
only take Top Talent at Top Dollar Temps . but if 
anything comes m at your level we'll be sure to let you 
know Bye now! , 

'° VU,// 



Remember when everyone in the office thought those who knew how to do word processing had a truly 
special skill? A few years ago in San Francisco, a word processor could sail into almost any modem office and be 
guaranteed $10-12 an hour, no problem. But now that many more of us have learned word processing and jobs 
are scarcer, the relatively high rate of pay is crumbling (even though TemPositions still charges $25/hr. for 
word processors). 

In the meantime TemPositions is sponsoring a special competition, "Duelling For Dullards, ostensibly as 
a PR stunt which will also benefit Wang, donor of the machines used at the event. Apparently TemPositions' 
attempt to make a name for itself was serious enough to warrant hiring a PR firm, the Orsbom Group, to 
smoothe over the rough edges. A less obvious "benefit" of the contest is its potential role in setting production 
norms, always a boon for cost conscious bosses. While everybody knows that 55-60 wpm is a standard speed on 
a typewriter, there is still some uncertainty as to how much work can be squeezed out of word processors. Many 
of us with word processing skills like to perpetuate that mystery to our advantage! While we doubt temp 
agencies will really call ' their girls' ' after the duel to bump off slower operators, agencies and other businesses 
are indeed eager to measure and 'rationalize " word processing. 

Whether or not standardization is a conscious motive for today s event, this publicity gimmick is clearly an 
encouragement for word processors to work faster and harder, and to take pride in being better than their 
co-workers. As long as secretaries identify with corporate goals and standards, they are less likely to question 
or challenge the ultimate value and meaning of all the tedious hours spent in front of a VDT, and more likely to 
submit passively to the deadening office routine. 

When we compete amongst ourselves to see who can be the fastest, the brightest and the best m the office, 
it's a sure bet that our bosses will be the winners. 

Nasty Secretary Liberation Front 
c/o 55 Sutter Street, *829 
San Francisco, CA 94104 

M3TTnnfinriifiniiiiaiaia^^ iM^BSBSmBBBB^ 

This leaflet was distributed at a "Duelling Word Processors'' publicity- 
contest in downtown San Francisco. The event was sponsored by a local 
temp agency and a large word processing vendor. 




"Look at that!" Mike snarled, 
pointing to a roll of blueprints. "The 
guy who wanted these came down 
here at ten-thirty, saying he just had 
to have fifty copies before noon. Fifty 
freakin' copies! He thinks I just shove 
it in the machine, press a 'fifty' 
button £ind, presto, copies! They 
always forget that if they want fifty 
copies I have to push the blueprint 
through the machine fifty separate 
times. I told him I couldn't promise 
they would be ready, but he really 
hassled me about it. 'Gotta have 'em, ' 
he said. So I dropped all my other 
work to get the damn fifty copies 
done, and here it is, three-thirty, and 
his damn blueprints are still sitting 
here! He can go to hell before I bust 
my ass for him again." 

Ardath snickered, "What do you 
expect from a Grey?" 

Greys, the men and women who 
have dedicated their lives to assid- 
uously climbing the corporate ladder. 
They can be readily identified by the 
color of their clothes and, sometimes, 
their hair. Grey polyester has re- 
placed grey flannel, but the message 
is still the same. Be neutral. Blend in. 

"Dress Uke a professional," a Grey 
counseled the denim-clad Ardath on 
her first day at the Company. 

"Pay me like one and I will," she 

"What the hell would they do 
without us?" Mike asked. 

"They'd do the work themselves. 
Who knows? Maybe it would make 
them human." 

"Nothing could make them hu- 
man," Mike retorted, his disdain 
evident in the snap of his wrists as he 
rolled up another set of blueprints. 

"They eat blueprints for breakfast." 

"And blueprints clerks for lunch," 
Ardath thought. 

Mike sneered, "I can't stand them. 
Have you ever noticed how they 
always line up? They even walk to the 
cafeteria in a single file. They talk 
over their shoulders." 

"That way they can see if the boss 
is following them." 

Ardath 's crack did not lighten 
Mike's mood. Mike reproduced ev- 
erything from blueprints to reports to 
doodles for six floors of Greys. Or- 
dinarily, he operated on a first come- 
first served basis, but he did his best 
to accomodate emergencies. Mike felt 
abused whenever an inconsiderate 
junior executive pulled a false alarm. 
He could nurse a grudge for a long 

"New job Uned up yet?" he asked. 

"Nah, summer is a slow time for 



"Whatcha gonna do?" 

"I'm going to try to remember how 
to write." Ardath glanced at her 
wristwatch. "I'd better get back to my 
desk, Mike. See ya' 'round." 

"Thanks for stopping by." 

As she walked down the hall, Mike 
called out, "Hey, Ard?" 


"Don't yell in the halls. Kids," 
cautioned a passing Grey. "This is a 
professional establishment." When 
the Grey turned his back, Mike and 
Ardath each raised a clenched fist, 
middle finger extended. As soon as an 
elevator had swallowed the Grey, 
Mike yelled rapidly, "Let me know if 
you publish anything!" 

"Mike, I promise you the first copy 
of whatever," Ardath shouted back, 
trying to penetrate the din of Mike's 
reproduction machines. I'll even 
warn you that it's coming so you can 
buy some fish to wrap." 

Ardath walked down the four 
flights of stairs to her office. The 
staircase was usually a faster means 


Introducing Agnes. . . 

A multifunctional interactive unit with 

built-in coffee dispenser! 

of transportation than the seven high 
speed elevators which wormed their 
way through the innards of the giant 
grey icecube tray the Company called 
home. As she descended the stairs, 
Mike's questions resurfaced. "What 
the hell would they do without us?" 
Us, the Blues, blue jeans, blue 
collars, blueprint clerks. Blues can be 
readily identified by the fact that they 
work at their lowest mental levels so 
that the Greys can work at their 
highest. The Company's work force 
was aligned in a typical Financial 
District pattern: Blues on one side. 
Greys on the other. Secretaries, like 
Corinne, in the middle. 

Ardath passed Corinne 's desk. 

"Ardath, Nate wants to see you." 

Ardath spied Nate reading in his 
office. "Good," she thought, "I can 
get it over with now." She strode 
quickly to Nate's door, hoping to 
reach the threshold before he noticed 
her. Nate would often tell Corinne 
that he wished to speak to Ardath, 
only to close his door and begin a long 
series of phone calls when she ap- 
proached. Ardath was convinced the 
ensuing wait was part of a power 
game calculated to give Nate a psy- 
chological advantage in their meet- 

Ardath 's heartbeat quickened from 
a combination of annoyance and trep- 
idation. "Did he notice I was away 
from my desk almost two hours?" she 
wondered. "He shouldn't bitch about 
it today, but, knowing Nate, he 
probably will." 

Nate was an apprentice Grey. He 
had recently moved "up" from a 
bullpen of five people to his very own 
cell with four complete walls. He had 
a long way to go before he won the 
Company's Grand Prize, mahogany 
furniture, but Ardath had no doubts 
he'd make it. Corinne, the handmaid 
and master sergeant he shared with 
two other apprentices, would train 
him well. Nate's own attitude made 
him a promising prospect. His think- 
ing was molded by Company politics. 



Ardath despised him for it. 

"Corinne said you wanted to see 
me." Ardath employed a flat tone of 
voice when speaking to Nate. Her 
ability to verbally erect a stone wall 
intimidated some co-workers, but the 
wall was actually Ardath 's defense 
against intimidation. 

"Just wanted to thank you for all 
you help, Ardath. We've had our 
differences, but actually, I'm sorry 
you're not staying with the Company. 
It's just very hard to become a 
permanent employee." 

"Hard? It's absolutely bizarre!" 
Ardath thought, as Nate droned on. 
All new applicants, except lawyers, 
accountants, engineers and computer 
programmers, were restricted to a 
handful of entry-level jobs. The hiring 
policy protected senior employees 
from being by-passed for promotion, 

but it also produced the anomaly of 
Ph.D.'s pushing mail carts. 

"We were trying very hard to find 
something else for you," Nate con- 
tinued, "but all we have left are odd 
jobs. It's very hard to justify the fee 
we pay your agency if you're not stuck 
to a desk." 

At the desk she had been stuck to, 
Ardath assembled and updated tech- 
nical looseleaf services for the Com- 
pany's engineers. On the first day, 
she and Nancy, her predecessor, were 
kibitzing in the basement where the 
empty looseleaf binders were stored. 

"This job drove me nuts and all I 
have is a high school education," 
Nancy proclaimed. "I hear you're a 
college graduate?" 

"Master's degree in comparative 

"Master's? Good luck! After two 



days you'll see why I'm trans- 

Ardath saw after one day. As she 
stuffed the binders, updating dusty 
manuals no one had consulted in 
years, she consoled herself with the 
thought that tedious office work 
would be a dim memory once she 
established herself as a novelist. But 
her boredom on the job manifested 
itself in a loathing of paper. Ardath 
did no creative writing during the 
three months she worked for Nate. 

Nate knew Ardath 's job was well 
beneath her abilities, but the same 
could be said for the jobs of all the 
workers in his department. All of 
them, including Nate himself, were 
disgruntled at some time or another. 
They had learned to accept the 
situation, or transfer. But Ardath 
routinely questioned procedures, o- 
penly complained when superiors 
boorishly imposed on clericals, and, 
once she pointed out a situation which 
was irrational or unfair, expected the 
situation to be rectified immediately, 
without regard for Company politics. 
When the Personnel Department 
found a Company employee to fill the 
job permanently, Nate decided to 
terminate Ardath. She was a fast 
learner and a productive worker; he 

could have given her more chal- 
lenging assignments in his short- 
handed department. Releasing her 
was the line of least resistance. He 
had no time to cope with an employee 
who couldn't take "It's Company 
policy" for an answer. 

"Keep your application up to 
date," Nate advised. "Maybe some- 
thing will open up when the em- 
ployees' children go back to school 
this fall." 

Nate and Ardath ended the inter- 
view with chit-chat about atomic 
bombs, a ceremonial conversation 
calculated to demonstrate that the 
work relationship was allegedly end- 
ing on an amicable note. 

When Ardath emerged from Nate's 
office, Corinne asked, "Did you catch 
hell for being away from your desk 
most of the afternoon?" 

"No, he didn't even mention it. He 
probably realized I was saying good- 
bye. That's one thing about this 
Company; it doesn't begrudge you a 

At five o'clock, the sadness Ardath 
felt while saying good-bye gave way 
to relief. The sense of belonging one 
can acquire during a long-term tem- 
porary assignment was gone. All to 
the better, as it was a false sense. 



Ardath shared the crush of the com- 
mute, the expectations of punctuaHty, 
dress and performance, and the frus- 
trations of the work with the perma- 
nent employees. But, on the day she 
felt ill, she had not been allowed to 
see the Company doctor. ("Company 
medical benefits are for Company 
employees only. . . " ) . Though obvioiis- 
ly underemployed, she had not been 
allowed to apply for better jobs. ("We 
promote from within. . . " ) . On this last 
day, there was no farewell lunch, not 
even a box of cookies. 

The rigors of the business world 
were far behind Ardath as she walked 
along the shores of the lake. Southern 
Indiana had been her home until the 
pressures of supporting herself in a 
recessed economy forced relocation to 
an urban center. Her childhood mem- 
ories were filled with the sights and 
sounds of this lake: her brothers 
wrestling on inner tubes in the sum- 
mer, her mother painting watercolors 
of the brilliant autumn landscape, her 
father being fooled by whatever fish 
were in season, and little Ardath 
dancing across the Griffin dam as if 
she were Olga Korbut on a giant 
balance beam. As an adult, Ardath 
returned to the lake whenever she 
could. This day, she strolled across 
the dam, pausing midway to observe 
a couple paddling a canoe toward a 
nearby island. "Lovers on a picnic?" 
she mused. 

The bike messenger wore grey 
overalls. The blue propeller on his 
beanie whirled faster as his legs 
pumped harder. He was trying to beat 
the light. He missed. No matter. He 
banked a sharp right. 

Ardath heard a distant voice. She 
turned toward the sound but was 
unable to spot its source. She fell 
asleep on the sun-baked dam as the 
summer breeze murmured through 
the trees around the lake. 

The impact threw the messenger 
from his bike. He landed on the hot 
grey asphalt, scraped and stunned 
but not seriously injured. A crowd 

quickly gathered around the fallen 
pedestrian. The grey monoliths of the 
Financial District towered impas- 
sively over the hunched shoulders £ind 
craning necks of the curious on- 
lookers. The shaken messenger knelt 
beside the victim. 

"Lady," he said, choking back the 
tears, "Didn't ya hear me yellin' 
atcha to watch out?" 

She briefly opened her eyes. "You 
shouldn't ride a bike on the dam," 
she said, as she slipped into grey 
unconsciousness . 

by Ana Kellia Ramares 





•j^^ Inside the Childcare Factory 

Our Children 

Today many parents in both single 
and two parent families are confront- 
ing serious problems in caring for 
their children while at work. Since 
they frequently have no nearby 
friends or relatives who can regularly 
look after their children, affordable 
care in centers, family daycare homes 
or with babysitters has become more 
important than ever. 

I first became aware of one of the 
basic problems in childcare while 
looking at a college job board. After 
one and a half to two years of 
specialized training, I could expect to 
earn from between $3.50 to $4.95 an 
hour. A wage offer above five dollars 
an hour was rare. Because of the 
terrible remuneration, I seriously 
debated whether or not to pursue a 
childcare career. I found childcare an 
unusually challenging and rewarding 
job and I dreaded returning to 
waitressing. I was single, without 
dependents and accustomed to living 
frugally. For me, all of these factors 
outweighed the lousy wage. 


Children may be as young as two or 
three months when they first enter 
school and the separation from 
parents and the multitude of new 
experiences and people is usually 

traumatic. An understanding adult 
must reassure the child and make 
sure that their needs for good and 
proper rest are met. Once a relation- 
ship of trust is established between 
the child and teacher, the child can 
develop the self-confidence to enjoy 
his/her surroundings. 

Teachers of young children must 
possess a sympathetic rather than 
judgemental nature, being able to 
express their thoughts and feelings 
simply and clearly. They should value 
the spontaneous logic of children 
while maintaining an overall class- 
room orderliness. If they are to 
maintain their resourcefulness, imag- 
ination and sense of humor, the 
teachers can't have too many children 
in their charge or work more than a 
reasonable number of hours. As part 
of their paid working day, teachers 
need uninterrupted time to talk to the 
rest of the staff about activities, 
routines and children. 

My first childcare job came closest 
to this ideal. At this job, the staff 
stressed cooperation and the toddlers 
in our care grew daily more self- 
assured and independent. The center 
was relatively small so the daily 
routine was not rigid; each child had 
one adult primarily responsible for 
their care. When this job ended I 
moved to San Francisco and began to 


PnarEssED (rni^io 

do substitute teaching in various 
childcare centers. After three months 
I reaUzed that my school experiences 
had sheltered me. Most childcare 
facilities in which I have worked range 
from mediocre to terrible. Rarely have 
I found conditions that come close to 
my first job. 


Centers are usually funded through 
a combination of government subsi- 
dies, parent fees and donations from 
private organizations. Government 
support — the bulk of most centers' 
funding — has been drastically 
reduced in the past few years. The 
soaring cost of living makes it 
impossible for parents to be the sole 
support. Fund raising activities, while 
good for bringing together parents 
and staff, are too time-consuming and 
uncertain to provide more than a 
fraction of the necessary funding. 

In an effort to meet costs and 
remain open, centers are compro- 
mising the quality of their care by 
over-enrollment. I have worked in 
centers serving over fifty pre-school 
age children. Even in schools which 
maintain the federally regulated adult 
to child ratio, the incessant noise and 
chaos of activity makes it difficult to 
do anything requiring a period of 
unbroken concentration. Children are 
often either overstimulated and un- 
able to relax, or defensively with- 
drawn. Because teachers don't have 
time (or the peace of mind) to observe 
and form attachments with individual 
children, they don't have the neces- 
sary information to plan activities or 
intervene helpfully in children's dis- 
putes. In large centers, daily routines 
require such massive coordination 
that the kind of flexibility which best 
meets individual needs is frequently 
impossible. A teacher's role inevit- 
ably disintegrates: she or he becomes 
a police officer who must enforce 
strict adherence to the daily grind. 

Teachers usually work seven to 
eight hours daily in an emotionally 

trying give-and-take atmosphere. By 
the second half of their shift, 
patience, objectivity and openness 
have all but evaporated. Many 
teachers burden themselves with 
feelings of failure because they are 
not able to give their children proper 
care. Women, who make up the 
majority of childcare workers, are 
especially susceptible to this since 
they have been socialized to assume 
complete responsibility for the emo- 
tional health of their dependents. 
Instead of falling prey to guilt, 
teachers should examine the prob- 
lems within the structure of their 

As funds for childcare become 
scarcer, teachers will become respon- 
sible for ever larger groups of 
children and more untrained adults 
will be hired at lower wages. Some 
workers won't even be interested in 
children, since in hard times people 
are more concerned about having a 
job than liking it. But high turnover 
will persist in centers with especially 
poor conditions, compounding the 
children's insecurities. 

Many children spend eight or nine 
hours a day in their center. Even in 
the best conditions these long hours 
can be a strain on children. But in a 
center with almost constant stimula- 





tion (except for the one or two hour 
nap), where the adults don't have 
time to comfort and reassure, a child 
can become exceedingly anxious. 
Children who are placed into such 
institutions at a young age are more 
likely to become frightened and 
insecure adults who hesitate to 
question or think for themselves. 

We shouldn't underestimate how 
much the ruling order benefits from 
the psychological effects of an increa- 
singly factory-like childcare system. A 
government gains stabiUty and legiti- 
macy from a population which is used 
to depending on authority to tell it 
what to think, what to buy, and who to 

Some childcare advocates are pur- 
suing employer-sponsored childcare 
as an alternative to government 
funding. In the present economic 
situation, this tactic will not get very 
far. Factories are closing everywhere, 
and thousands of people are finding 
themselves suddenly unemployed. In 
an effort to forestall layoffs and plants 
from closing, unions negotiate away 
the pay increases and benefits which 
workers have already won. With the 
possibile exception of small com- 
panies in need of skilled labor, there 
is little chance of employer-sponsored 
childcare becoming a major source. 


I believe that parents should 
demand free, parent-controlled child- 
care. Parents and teachers concerned 
about the damage done to children in 
overcrowded schools staffed by over- 
worked, undertrained adults will want 
to gain control of public money and 
use it to improve their centers. 

As part of the daily struggle for 
quality care, teachers in large centers 
should strive to plan activities in small 
groups. If the same teacher is with the 
same small group of kids everyday at 
a snack table or in a specizd activity, 
the intimacy between adult and child, 
as well as child and child, is 

Parents and teachers are also 
beginning to create more extended^ 
family networks, playgroups, simple 
parent co-ops and other forms of 
childcare which do not require 
government or business support. 
Small parent groups can share 
childcare among themselves and/or 
divide the expense of employing a 
teacher. If children are cared for in a 
parent's home, much of the expense 
of a center can be eliminated. Both 
teachers and children benefit from the 
manageable size of the group and the 
comfort of a home envirorunent. 
Instead of being paid entirely in 
money, a teacher could accept free 
rent in a parent ' s home , free car repair , 
free food from a parent's garden or 
any exchange imaginable. 

ImpUed in this type of organizing is 
more parent participation than a 
center usually requires and a tighter 
relationship between parents and 
teachers, as well as between parents. 
It's true that working parents have 
little time to organize their own 
childcare, and teachers have little 
desire to become too involved in the 
lives of the families they serve. But as 
money becomes more scarce, centers 
will start to close or decay into 
factory-like schools. The alternatives 
we develop can build the communal 
strength and resiliency which our 
dependence on bureaucratic institu- 
tions so effectively paralyzes. 

by Penny O 'Reilly 




Sitting in a bar alone, I decide to write a poem. 

Third Person Alienation 

has pulled up to the station. 

I wish I was at home. 

Trying to swallow this whiskey- 

{with low blood sugar, drinking 's risky) 
but if I can borrow 
a little assistance, I'll take it, 
It'll help me to fake it for another three hours 
among these concrete towers. 

by Linda Thomas 


Outside the glass windows the scrub oaks all beckon 

But I must remain behind corporate pane 

My time has been sold and I 'm trapped here I reckon 

Amongst the fiche film in this corporate erection 

The violet rays from the terminal's view screen 

Gleam in my face and light up my tomb 

I work till my eyes become sore then two phones scream 

So I pick them both up by their gray plastic cords 

And twirl them and swirl them till snap! they go zoom 

Right through the view screen and out of the room 

Through the large windows and into the hordes 

Of passing white Porsches and businessmens' lunches 

Flash! I awake to a light and some crunches 

For while I had slept I tad walked in my sleep 

And to my delight amongst the glass heap 

I found that I'd trashed all the programs they had 

So I left in a hurry and felt kind of glad 

Timothy Pickering 



The Thing That Is Missed 

The thing that is missed is 

time without plans 

time that invents itself 

like children with summer vacation 

day after day of it 

not one free square 

on your mark get set go 

Have FUN-dammit-FUN 


Time's up. 

Back on the line. 

Well did you have fun? 

Not too much fun? 

Too hectic? 

More relaxing to work 

isn't it... 

heh heh heh heh. 

by Barbara Luck 


stroll quietly 
sit complacently 
lie down 

dry tiles 
dusty, and without reflection 

caffeine boot 

glance away 
snag another 
panic in public 

stifling, and without sympathy 

on line 

Then eighty-eight keystrokes 

pave the way 

to thermal-paper climax — 

endless manipulation 
useless information 
and the solitude of the ten-o'clock bagel 

They make a cult of work 

expect, I think, salvation for it 

they work unruffled 

no creases spoil the day 

they eat numbers 

and shit the difference 

can process whole years 

in printout or paragraph 

machines they're not 

machines won't work that way 

they're human, that is to say; 

mornings they appear 

with papers by phones 

a right response 

comes when needed 

{is there life after work?) 

lunchtime's hello time 

yet they will speak more 

when unavoidable; 

do they ever feel, though, 

some days just won't work? 

— by John Norton 


by Jose's son 



Lift Up Thy Invoices 

Lift up thy invoices to heaven 

And let your purchase order you around. 

Give the boys in the shipping room 

Something to lool< up to 

As they cart those cases around 

As you die where ya live 

And your faith leaks, like a sieve 

Come on, dig down deeper in your pockets 

How much can you give? 

We let ya add your little quirks 
To your tedious work 
And just where would mail be today 
Without mailroom clerks? 

So lift up... (refrain) 

O it's joyful and it's grand 

It's a nightmare well in hand 

So if you can't keep your face from falling 

What's your problem, man? 

We got the Reverend Jim Jones 
He brought the kool-aid for the punch line 
And when you talk about redemption 
I get green stamps on my mind 

So lift up., (refrain) 

We are baptized, we are blessed 
We don't waste a second guess 
'Cause we know tomorrow's like today 
It's already at the press 

Yes, it's a world of jolly bliss 
We can't get enough of this 
But I'm askin' for permission. Lord 
'Cause I gotta take a p-p-piss 

a song by Tom Ward © 1980 



From Boom To Bust: 

How do I fill my days? 

A force called "Hard Cash'' moves my feet 
Gang of Four, 1982, "Call Me Up" 

From the vantage point of the 
"Raw Deal" eighties it's hard even to 
imagine the expectations people in 
their teens and twenties had in the 
decade after World War H. The U.S. 
was unchallenged ruler of half the 
world, wages were rising rapidly if 
not steadily, and after 1947 inflation 
was a minor annoy aince. Buying a 
home and steirting a family were 
easier than they had ever been 

The prosperity of the post WWII 
era coincided with the birth of 76 
million people between 1947 and 1964 
— the biggest "baby boom " in US 
history. New consumer goods and the 
suburbanization of a large part of the 
working class provided the basis for a 
niuch-touted "upward mobility." Ca- 
pitalism's ideologues announced an 
era of unlimited economic growth in 
which all good citizens could expect to 

The new generation grew up amid 
ubiquitous encouragement from radio, 
TV, magazines and newspapers to 
define success and happiness in terms 
of material commodities. In exchange 
for accepting the responsibilities of 
work and family hfe, anyone, it was 
thought, could attain "middle class" 
status. "Upward mobility" generally 
meant getting out of the blue collar 
and into the white collar, out of the 
city and into the suburbs, off the bus 
or train and into the private car, etc. 

Parents who saw only marginal im- 
provements in their own living stand- 
ards focused their aspirations on their 
kids' futures. For millions of Ameri- 
can workers, the only way to partici- 
pate in the glories of an expanding 
capitalist economy was to ensure a 
better job for their children. Being the 
father or mother of a lawyer was 
somehow considered a just reward for 
parents who spent their own working 



lives as auto workers or seamstresses. 
It was widely accepted that a college 
education guaranteed a good job with 
steadily increasing income, status and 
responsibilities. As living standards 
improved and fears of economic de- 
pression receded, many parents were 
able to set aside money to help send 
their kids to college. 

Governments at all levels helped 
establish a college education as a 
status elevator and meal ticket by 
building many public universities and 
creating demand for colleges via 
grants, loans, G.I. bill, etc. This in 
turn presented job opportunities for 
college graduates in government and 
universities. By 1969 higher educa- 
tion had become an industry employ- 
ing more workers than either auto or 

Unlike past generations, a large 
minority of the 76 million baby boom- 
ers attended college. The proportion 
of students to non-students peaked in 
1969 when one-half of all college-age 
white males were enrolled. This was 
the first generation in which many 
considered it normal to stay at home 
until age 18 or 19 and then go on to 
some kind of higher education. For 
some, the university experience itself 
v/as the "fruit of the American 
Dream." Most schools were endowed 

with an array of facilities, structures, 
and equipment beyond the reach of 
the average citizen. These "luxuries" 
were added to the luxury of the stu- 
dents' several years of relative free- 
dom prior to donning the responsibil- 
ities of job and family (though it is 
true that most students had to work at 
lousy, low-paying jobs in order to help 
fund their training for "something 

But in spite of efforts to inculcate 
blind nationalism and conformism at 
an early age with daily recitations of 
Pledges of Allegiance and Star- 
Spangled Banners, complemented by 
regimented leisure activities like Boy 
and Girl Scouts, in spite of the prolif- 
eration of role models like Barbie and 
Ken and G.I. Joe, somewhere along 
the Great White American Way the 
socialization process broke down. The 
very generation brought up to enjoy 
the fruits of the new consumer soci- 
ety began rejecting it in earnest as 
they watched the American Dream 
fade into a Nightmare of boredom and 

Promises of the Joys of new 
dishwashing liquids and of the 
freedom provided by modern conve- 
niences were countered with the 
poverty of spiritual and emotional life 
in the new suburban ghettoes. The 
revolt coalesced into a social move- 
ment that left few areas of daily life 
unchallenged as people experimented 
with ideas emd lifestyles that escaped 
(at least temporairily) the mold of the 
' * buy-or-die ' ' economy . 

An important impetus for this 
breakdown came from far beyond the 
world of suburban tract homes and 
spanking new campuses. It came from 
the Black revolt which, beginning in 
Alabama and Mississippi, flared 
through the Southern states and 
across the Mason-Dixon Line to the 
industrial ghettoes of the North. 
Hundreds of young whites shared as 
Freedom Riders the experience of 



Black solidarity, dignity and courage 
against the brutality of police and 
vigilantes. Not only did they partici- 
pate in a community different from 
anything they had ever known but 
they were abruptly compelled to view 
the "forces of order" as guardians of 
an unjust, exploitative £ind routinely 
violent system. 

This encounter with the Civil Rights 
movement— whose aspirations ranged 
from social revolution to a mere equal 
incorporation of Blacks into "con- 
sumer society"— pushed huge num- 
bers of white youth to revolt against 
the generally subtler constraints and 
repressions of their own lives. "Do 
not bend, fold, spindle or mutilate 
me, ' ' cried the partisans of Berkeley's 
1964 Free Speech Movement, while 
Students for a Democratic Society, 
founded two years earlier, shifted 
from mild, left-liberalism to increas- 
ingly radical critiques of the whole 
social order and a commitment to 
mass participatory democracy in its 
own activities (though it's true they 
didn't always carry out these prin- 

Alongside and within the Black, 
student and "counterculture" revolts 
grew mass opposition to the Vietnam 
War. Awareness of the atrocities 
committed by the U.S. military opened 
up a whole series of related issues: 
the imperialist nature of U.S. foreign 
policy, the inhuman misery and pov- 
erty associated with corporate Amer- 
ica's exploitation of the Third World, 
the government's complicity in bol- 
stering repressive regimes that facili- 
tated multinational corporate profits, 
and the destructive uses of modem 
technology both in its military and its 
industrial applications. 

As ghetto after ghetto exploded in 
the wake of Martin Luther King's as- 
sassination, white youth fought in the 
streets against the war and the way of 
life which gave rise to it. An unstable 
community developed based on com- 
mon values and symbols that were 
articulated in a flurry of underground 

publications as well as in rock-songs 
and movies. These new cultural 
activities were themselves a lively 
critique of the commercialization and 
homogenization of "leisure time." 

In the rag-tag laboratories of the East 
Village, the Haight-Ashbury and a 
few other such centers the experi- 
menters, many of whom became 
known as "hippies," broke with all 
the established goals and norms they 
could think of. Using drugs, music 
8uid visionary art, they tried to purge 
themselves of their parents' obses- 
sion with work, money and posses- 




Already the more radical hippies 
had denounced marriage £uid the 
nuclear family as breeding-grounds 
for neurosis and repression. Now 
small groups of feminists criticized 
the masculine privilege built into 
hippie "free-love" ethos and the 
macho, authoritarian behavior of 
many male activists. Thousands more 
girls and women soon began rejecting 
sex roles in all kinds of ways — from 
insisting on wearing pguits to school 
and refusing to take "home ec" 
classes, to attacking beauty contests 
and forming "consciousness raising" 
groups where they could throw off the 
age-old domination of "their" men 
and discover their own power and 



People's Park Riot, 1968, Berkeley, CA 

creativity. At about the same time, 
many homosexuals refused to conceal 
their orientation any longer and 
rebelled violently against discrimina- 
tion and police heirassment in the 
famous Stonewall riot of 1969. 

Together these youth created tem- 
porary and partial alternatives to 
wage-labor, the life-blood of capitaUst 
society. Collectives, cooperatives, and 
communal farms provided many 
"dropouts" with a way of eking out a 
living on the margins of the commod- 
ity economy. While small networks of 
such groups still exist in the U.S. to- 
day, many have been broken by the 
tribulations of the money economy, or 
have had to tighten up and become 
more "business-like" so that they 
now differ little from "straight" busi- 
ness operations. Still others have col- 
lapsed under the weight of isolation or 

in-fighting, undoubtedly exacerbated 
by lack of money, time, and space. An 
"alternative" business loses its ap- 
peal when it ends up requiring more 
energy and effort to sustain than a 
regular job in a corporate office or 
shop floor. 

The impossibility of preserving an 
alternative society within the capital- 
ist economy contributed to the disin- 
tegration of the 60s movements. The 
end of the Vietnam War and the 
Watergate purges also defused poli- 
tical opposition, by removing favorite 
targets of the protest movements. 

Once separated from the multi- 
faceted critique of daily life, the cul- 
tural creations of the movement be- 
came commodities like any other, rock 
promoters, drug-pushers, hip New 
Age entrepreneurs £ind Self-Help mer- 
chants all profited from the co-opta- 



tion of the counter-culture. The lan- 
guage and symbols of the disintegra- 
ting community of "drop-outs" were 
absorbed by the mainstream where 
their subversive meanings were neu- 
tralized. "Feminism" came to be 
represented in the media by the 
image of a dressed-for-success woman 
executive. At the same time, chan- 
neled through anti-war activism into a 
fight on behalf of others, and lacking 
an adequate theory of its own, the 
poUtical wing of the movement fell an 
easy prey to authoritarian Old Leftist 
ideologies like Maoism and Trotsky- 

Aspirations for a complete trans- 
formation of society gave way to a 
quest for novelty and vague desires to 
be * ' different . ' ' Pop-psychologists , 
"Me-Decade" hacks and other prop- 
agandists of the status quo rational- 
ized the demise of radicalism as the 
sober reaction of mature individuals 
to the "excesses" of their youthful 
"idealism." They prescribed pseudo- 
philosophies of "Positive Thinking" 
to help obliterate social consciousness 
and alleviate prevalent feelings of 
anger, frustration and failure. The 
common social problems faced by 
everyone were supposedly "solvable" 
by "changing your lifestyle." In an 
ironic parallel with the politicos, the 
spiritual seekers likewise succumbed 
to authoritarianism and dogma. A 
whole crop of gurus and spiritual 
leaders cashed in on the self-sacri- 
ficial ideology of anti-consumerism, 
and the widespread spiritual poverty, 
turning thousands of confused, dis- 
oriented young people into their zom- 
bie slaves. 

Despite the co-optation of the 60' s 
movements, it is undeniable that they 
left an imprint on popular conscious- 
ness, especially among still younger 
people who were not directly involved 
in the events themselves. This is 
particularly clear in the gut-level 
distrust for authority and government 
that millions still feel. 

The post-war economic boom gave 
way in the seventies to inflation and 
depression. Alternatives to the regu- 
lar job-market dried up, just when 
millions of college-educated baby- 
boomers began entering it. Reduc- 
tions in student grants further closed 
off opportunities for even temporary 
respite from wage- work, and job 
opportunities in the government and 
academic worlds — traditional em- 
ployers of college grads — have been 
on the decline for years. 

Where have these millions of new 
economic draftees gone to seek em- 
ployment? Those who responded to 
seventies' economic projections by 
specializing in business, computers, 
and sciences, have usually found jobs 
in those fields. But what of the 
millions who resisted the dictates of 
the market? It has become something 
of a cliche to refer to the cab-driver 
with a Master's Degree in EngUsh 
literature, but it is true that the 
expansion of employment has mostly 
occurred in the so-called "service" 
sector of the economy. 

Within the service sector, by far the 
greatest growth has come in "infor- 
mation services" within and between 
businesses and government. The 
number of people working at white- 
collar jobs has more than doubled in 
the past twenty-five years, now com- 
prising over 53% of the workforce. 
The largest increases have been in the 
clerical realm, where there are now 
I8V2 million people working, and 
"professional and technical work" 
where there are now nearly 17 million 
workers (this latter category includes 
occupations as varied in income and 
status as computer programmer, 
health worker, technician, lawyer, 
school teacher). Coincidentally, the 
primary "skill" learned from a con- 
temporary university education has 
been at least a rudimentary abihty to 
"handle information" — a skill one 
needs simply to get through the 
educational bureaucracy. 






In the post-WWn era, big US 
companies were growing by leaps and 
bounds. To take advantage of the 
geographically large US market, 
many companies built facilities all 
across the country. Often this led to 
greater and more complex flows of 
raw materials, semi-finished, and 
finished products. Similarly, many 
companies began moving their plants 
to Europe, Asia, and Latin America — 
to take advantage of those markets, as 
well as of the lower wages and the 
absence of governmental regulation. 
Dispersion of a corporation's produc- 
tion and distribution facilities 
throughout the world complicates re- 
cord-keeping at all levels, creating 
ever greater needs for "administra- 
tive support" (read, office work). 

Along with expanding markets 
came the need to publicize new 
products. Advertising, which first 
C2une into its own in the 1920' s, .eally 
grew in the 50 's and 60 's along with 
TV and other new media. Entertain- 
ment, constantly interrupted by ad- 
vertisements, glamorized ever newer 
and fancier consumer goods. Indus- 
tries like fihn, recording, publishing 
and advertising, geared to the pro- 
duction and dissemination of "infor- 
mation" hired thousands of workers 
to design products and publicity, and 
to buy and sell these information 

Innumerable disputes and conflicts 
evolved from the complex relation- 
ships within and between different 
businesses and business sectors. 
These, plus the ever-growing load of 
governmental regulation and con- 
stantly changing tax laws, led to the 
extraordinary growth of legal Work 
and its millions of lawyers, research- 
ers, clerks, reporters, examiners, etc. 
The vast majority of litigation involves 
corporations and government agen- 
cies, and focuses on their control of 

markets, products, and profits. Partly 
to protect themselves in court, all 
companies now produce gmd maintain 
at least duplicate records of every- 
thing (triplicate and quadruplicate 
records are common in accounting 
and legal firms). Memos and con- 
tracts have become the final proff of 
what is "real." All of this calls for 
millions of workers to write, type, 
copy, file, and retrieve the infor- 

Another participant in the Utigation 
merry-go-round has been the insur- 
ance industry. The increasingly com- 
plex economy has created more pos- 
sibilities for things to go wrong, which 
in turn has caused the insurance 
industry to boom. Since everything 
that goes wrong implies a financizd 
liability for someone, it isn't sur- 
prising that everyone wants to buy 
protection from potentially catastro- 
phic losses due to accident (or due to 
the consequences of deliberately cut- 
ting corners in the scramble to get an 
advantage over competitors — see for 
example Love Canal or the Ford 
Pinto). Nor is it surprising that 
insurance companies have spent a 
good deal of money on lawsuits to 
avoid paying even more money to 
beneficiaries and/or victims. Insur- 
ance companies now employ millions 
of office workers and wield enormous 
power in investment decisions 
through their control of premium 
money. Because of their importance 
as money managers, the insurance 
and banking industries have begun to 

One of the much-pubUcized fea- 
tures of the past 35 years has been the 
astounding growth of government 
bureaucracies at every level — mun- 
icipal, county, state, and federal. In 
spite of the current attempts to curb 
governmental growth this sector of 
the economy still employs more than 6 
million information workers. 

Yet another contributing factor to the 
the growth of office employment has 
been 15 years of merger-mania — the 



remarkable rise of conglomerates, or 
large holding companies which own 
numerous manufacturing, distribu- 
tion and/or financial subsidiaries. 
Bureaucracy grows as each subsidiary 
has to devote time and money to 
comply with the information needs of 
its parent. Meanwhile parent com- 
panies become pure bureaucracies, 
interested only in the flow of data 
coming in from the subsidiaries. 

The last and most important sector 
of "information work" is banking. 
This primarily used to consist of 
taking in corporate and individual 
deposits and loaning it out on inter- 
est. But recently, fiercer competition 
for scarce investment funds has made 
possible higher returns than banking 
has traditionally offered. Higher 
earnings for investments have led to 
an inflow of funds and this, in turn, 
has stimulated the beginnings of the 
capitalist concentration process — the 
big companies absorb the small and 
begin fighting each other for market 
shares. The government is taking its 

first steps towards the gradual na- 
tional de-regulation of banking. 

The trend toward concentration in 
consumer investment services is ex- 
emplified in the recent acquisitions 
and mergers between big banks, 
insurance companies, credit card 
companies, stock brokerages, real 
estate firms, commodities broker- 
ages, and even retail giants like 
Sears. We are now seeing the creation 
of the ostensibly broader category, 
"financial services," which includes 
not just demand deposit banking and 
consumer and corporate credit, but 
also data processing and computer 
services, speculative investment in 
real estate, stock markets, money 
markets, commodities, etc., and such 
consumer services as insurance, cre- 
dit cards, retirement accounts, and 
travellers' checks. 

Remarkably, in spite of the more 
than 5 million workers already in- 
volved in finance, insurance, and real 
estate and in spite of the advent of 
office automation, most projections of 



future employment possibilities con- 
tinue to stress the field of financial 
services. They urge computer literacy 
as the primary prerequisite. This 
assumes that as these new financial 
service conglomerates begin to battle 
for the consumers' dollar there will be 
an unprecedented expansion in ways 
to shuffle all the money around. In 
other words, IRA's, All-Savers Certi- 
ficates of Deposit, money markets, 
etc. are only the beginning, and the 
"financial services" industry will 
need thousands, if not millions, more 
workers to handle all this additional 
"information." In line with these 

projections, the Reagan administra- 
tion's Labor Department recently of- 
fered for public conunent before 
adoption some new rules regarding 
child labor. Fourteen and fifteen yegir 
olds will be allowed to work as data 
entry clerks (among other jobs) after 
school for four hours a day, probably 
at less than minimum wage. 


For years, people from poor and 
working class backgrounds, especially 
women, have struggled to get white 
collar jobs as a step up in social status 
(if not income). The system's ideo- 
logues have encouraged this effort, 
saluting the rise of white collar work 
the expansion of the "middle 

Imagine, an entire series of industries based on 
ceaseless permutations in the movement of meaning- 
less information! What '11 they think of next? 



class." But the reality of office work 
makes the illusion of white-collar 
professionalism hard to maintain. 

The vast majority of white collar 
workers have inherited a workaday 
life consisting of repetitive, meaning- 
less tasks, subordination to petty, 
coercive authority and grinding anxi- 
ety. Creativity has been systemati- 
cally eliminated from most jobs 
through years of scientific manage- 
ment, speed-up and automation. The 
relentless assembly-line logic of pro- 
ductivity is riding automation into its 
new frontiers of low-to-middle man- 
agement and professional and tech- 
nical workers. It is not hard to 
imagine that in the very near future 
most people will carry out their jobs in 
front of TV screens. 

Beyond these generalizations, 
though, the office workforce is di- 
vided into variegated, complex and 
overlapping hierarchies of pay, sta- 
tus, and function. Lowest on the 
totem-pole from almost every point of 
view are the "information proces- 
sors" — data entry and file clerks in 
particular. Career ladders out of this 
layer are virtually nonexistent, the 
pay is often appalUng and the work 
rivals the assembly-line for sheer 
monotony, gmxiety and exhaustion. 
Not surprisingly, most key entry and 
data processing rooms are filled with 
younger women, especially Blacks, 
Chicanas and immigrants from Asia 
and Latin America. 

On the other side of the hierarchy 
are the trainee-junior and middle 
managers. The lowest of this group 
are typically products of night-school 
courses or in-house training and 
despite their often ferocious ambition 
are unlikely to rise much further, 
since they lack either the general 
eduQation or the connections re- 
quired. The Bachelors in business 
administration, most of whom these 
days are working in dead-end lower 
management positions, often plan to 
go back to school for their MBA's. 

Management aspirants come from 

all layers of the workforce, having in 
common only ambition, authori- 
tarianism, and the other rather 
twisted attitudes toward life and the 
living required for the role. John 
Lennon summed it up in "Working 
Class Hero": ''There's room at the 
top, They are telling you still, But first 
you must learn. To smile as you kill. " 

Between the sterile ghetto of 
"information processing" and the 
rat-maze of management are the 
secretaries and "support staff." The 
older generation of secretaries are 
mostly white women, well-schooled in 
the traditional secretarial role, which 
combines aspects of wife, mother and 
military aide-de-camp. This old-style 
secretary typically has to know every 
aspect of her boss' job that relates to 
the office itself. She has not only to 
answer the phones, take dictation and 
type letters and memoranda, but to 
organize her boss' entire working life 
and provide crucial emotional support 
as well. 

As automation clicks and chirps its 
way up from the key entry room into 
the managerial suites, secretarial 
work is being downgraded. Admit- 
tedly, some former secretaries be- 
come NCO's of the clerical army — 
word processing, supervisors, data 
base administrators, and other fancy 
sounding occupations. These low- 
level supervisory jobs are just as 
controlled and watched as the posi- 
tions they supervise, and don't 
represent any real control, although 
they do indicate a certain compliance 
with the status quo on the part of the 
person holding the job. Non-super- 
visory secretaries, meanwhile, are 
being gradually reduced in status as 
their old tasks of memory and 
organization are taken on by micro- 

All the same, in most offices the 
secretary or administrative assistant 
still has rather more variety and more 
pay and rather less direct supervision, 
than her number-crunching col- 
leagues downstairs. And it is in these 



secretarial and "support" jobs that a 
large proportion of "sixties rebels" 
have settled (the ones who have 
learned to type anyway — others have 
found their way into less-automated 
clerical niches like the mail room). 
Lacking the drive to manage, but 
educated and versatile enough to 
avoid the data processing depart- 
ments, they have become the new 
breed of secretarial worker — restless 
and mobile, if not officially "tem- 
porary," and far less identified with 
the job than their traditional counter- 
parts. If Processed World has a 
typical reader s/he is one of these. 

As the depression takes hold, the 
situation for all of these groups is 
deteriorating. The "information pro- 
cessors" are forced to accept ever 
larger workloads which are monitored 
impersonally by keystroke-counters 
built into their machines. Aspiring 

executive-types find the corporate 
career ladders increasingly 
' 'clogged, ' ' as the Wall Street Journal 
puts it. This year, college grads are 
being offered 19% fewer jobs than 
last. The most adventurous climbers 
try to move up by diagonal hops 
between companies, a risky business. 
Many others can expect at best 
stagnation, at worst a fast ride down 
to the street as their functions are 
taken over by a terminal in the suite 

The new-style secretaries are feel- 
ing the crunch in their own way. Often 
cynical about their jobs, they have 
illusions of a different sort. Many are 
artists, musicians or actors looking for 
the Big Break, which is now in- 
creasingly unlikely to arrive as the 
cultural markets too have turned 
bearish. The most rebellious, the 
habitual absentees and job-hoppers, 
are finding that work takes longer to 
find and are correspondingly cleaning 
up their acts. Once-choosy temps are 
more reluctant to turn assignments 



In the short term it looks as if at 
least outward conformity is going to 
sweep OfficeLand as people get 
frightened about survival. Certainly 
the single biggest response of U.S. 
workers to the economic crisis so far 
has been increasing caution and 
privatism. Grin and bear it at work, 
then seek pleasure and self-fulfill- 
ment in free time. But it takes an 
immense effort to overcome the 
fatigue and numbness that sets in at 
the end of the work/day week. People 
end up flopped in front of the TV or 
other forms of passive consumption 
trying to muster the strength for the 
next go-round. 

In this context, creative thought 
about one's predicament is very 
difficult. Public space is colonized by 
the entertainment industry, which 
profits from our need to forget, to 
escape. In the cinemas and concert- 
halls where we consume its products, 
we are "alone together," isolated 

from each other even as we occupy 
the same space. The few scenes 
where some genuine community 
exists can't really compensate for the 
dreariness of the working week. 

It's no wonder so many people feel 
their lives are being wasted by 
countless hours of boring, uncreative 
toil. Office workers are in a particu- 
larly good position to recognize this. 
Most office labor is "useful" only for 
realizing the political and economic 
priorities of governments and cor- 
porations. One need only consider 
how few people ever benefit from the 
millions of money transactions that 
occupy millions of workers daily in 
brokerage companies, banks, law 
firms and other corporate offices. The 
"services" provided by these institu- 
tions are "needed" because of the 
insecurity and scarcity that the money 
system creates in the first place. 

The wastefulness of information 
work is only the latest development of 

'Were looking for someone who*s willing to start at the bottom 

and stay there'* 



a social system that has made waste 
its primary product for most of this 
century. The ecological and psycho- 
logical problems attendant to an 
automobile/suburban ' 'throw-away' ' 
society are well documented, as is the 
planned obsolescence of many al- 
legedly useful goods and tools. 
Likewise, the vast military-related 
industries use billions of hours of 
potentially creative human labor for 
the production of means of mass 
destruction, misery, and terror. Even 
where this system has produced 
incredible abundance, as it has in 
food (though often of dubious nutri- 
tional value and at the expense of the 
planet's ecology), significant amounts 
are systematically destroyed to pre- 
serve the present system. 

A great many people will readily 
agree to all this, and many will even 
agree that the problem lies at the core 
of the existing set-up. But most can't 
really envision any other way of doing 
things. On the one hand, they view 
state-dominated societies like the 
USSR with understandable distaste 
and dread. On the other, the idea of a 
freely, genuinely cooperative and 

communal world, in which the 
individual would be realized rather 
than suppressed, is totally alien to 
their experience. How to imagine 
collective, equal responsibility for 
social decision-making in a world of 
universal hierarchy and irrational 
violence, hatred and fear? How to 
take seriously a vision of creatively 
satisfying work, directly controlled by 
those who do it, when people now 
must be driven to work by the cattle- 
prod of the wage system? 

In the movements of the sixties, 
such ideas, confused as they may 
have been, were partly naive ideal- 
ism. More important, though, they 
grew out of the actual experience of 
the movement itself — out of organi- 
zing demonstrations, sit-ins, boycotts 
and strikes, as well as communal 
households, food co-ops, free music 
gigs and so on. Some of these 
experiences were disillusioning too — 
a good many former activists and 
communards turned sourly conserva- 
tive after concluding that free collec- 
tivity was impossible. But others still 
remember the successes, partial as 
they were, the moments when people 
felt they had the power together to 
make their own history, to become 
anything they might desire to be. 
They carry with them a blurred 
snapshot of utopia. 

Today the sixties survivors, along 
with younger people who have 
developed similar feelings and at- 
titudes in response to this society, are 
being pressured to knuckle down and 
forget even the remnants of their 
dreams, preserved by some through 
work avoidance and the "artist" and 
"activist" roles. But this pressure 
will probably increase their dissat- 
isfaction. They are likely to be joined 
in this dissatisfaction by many from 
the key entry rooms, the data centers, 
and even the lower-level management 
offices, as all levels of the office- 
worker hierarchy find their work 
harder and duller, their pay poorer 
and their aspirations thwarted. Here 







is common ground on which to begin 
questioning in earnest the hfe we are 
forced to share and the fight for a 
better one. Perhaps, after all, the 
muddled and sometimes easily co- 
opted hopes of the Baby Boom 
generation will not simply be lost in 

the corporate machinery. Perhaps 
they will reappear, immeasurably 
strengthened and clarified out of a 
new social movement both broad and 
coherent enough to realize them. 

— by Lucius Cabins, Maxine Holz, 
and Louis Michaelson 



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